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Nahum Barnea
Israel punishes itself
Op-ed: Decision to boost settlement construction in wake of Itamar massacre bad for Israel
The government approved Sunday the construction of 400 housing units in Judea and Samaria in response to the murder in Itamar. Why Only 400, wondered Eli Yishai. We need to build 5,000 units, a thousand for each murder victim.

 

To a certain extent, Yishai is right. If the proper response to the despicable murder of the Fogel family is settlement expansion, 400 is a rather pathetic number. It does not reflect the shock, repugnance and fury. It offers no comfort. At most, it serves as an attempt to calm the hard core among the settlers with a real estate pill.

 

Likud ministers responded to the decision with enthused statements. The declarations issued by Transportation Minister Katz and Strategic Affairs Minister Ya’alon were particularly prominent. Those reading the statements can mistakenly think that up until last weekend, a bitter struggle took place within the government over construction in Judea and Samaria. The ministers pressed, threatened and begged, but Netanyahu and Barak thwarted their efforts.

 

The truth is wholly different, of course. The question of settlement construction only bothered the settlers themselves. The ministers’ decision to join the construction lobby at this time stems from their need to say something national and active in the face of the murder, and of course from cold political calculations: Settler fans hold significant clout in the Likud Central Committee.

 

This leaves us with Netanyahu. The question of what is the right thing for Israel to do with the territories accompanies him from the day he decided to enter politics. He thought about various solutions, all involving territorial partition. None of the options he came up with included Itamar, a settlement located at the heart of Arab population.

 

In his first term in office, Netanyahu told me: “Notice which settlements I don’t visit.” He did not travel to settlements located at the heart of the West Bank because he thought they are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

 

Bibi, where are you headed?

Once upon a time, construction in Judea and Samaria was perceived as a proper punishment for Palestinian terrorism. They engage in attacks while we engage in settlement activity. Yet this doctrine was emptied of any substance once most Israelis realized there is no way to perpetuate the current situation.

 

The choice we face is between dividing the land into two states and seeing the emergence of one state where Jews are not the majority. Partition would be a difficult, painful matter. A bi-national state would be a disaster.

 

Given this reality, expanding settlements at the heart of the West Bank is a punishment for Israel, not for the Palestinians.

 

The massacre in Itamar was terrible news for any person in Israel, leftist or rightist. It’s hard to understand why the government chose to punish us further through settlement expansion. Why do the people who seek to turn Israel into an apartheid state, or alternately, into a state ruled by an Arab majority deserve this reward? Why does everyone else have to be punished?

 

These days, Netanyahu attempts to appease everyone, in almost any area. This is his way of contending with constraints; this is his way to survive. His willingness to compromise is legitimate: Compromise is an inseparable part of a democratic regime. The problem is that with so many constraints and arrangements and deals, we lose sight of the target.

 

Instead of asking himself every morning how he’ll be ending the day, the prime minister of Israel is allowed to ask himself – and we are allowed to ask him – where are you headed?

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 03.15.11, 12:16
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