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Security or Conquest?

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I commented a while ago (note that the map isn't fixed, sadly demonstrating the powerlessness ofthe Blogoverse) about my negative reaction to Israel's newly announced plan to build 600 new homes in the occupied West Bank. My reaction was in large part triggered by the announcement, but then I read this editorial in the NY Times (looked but couldn't find the original Haaretz article online Mich at Tonecluster just forwarded the url of the article in a comment below), and my feelings were even stronger:
The newspaper said it had given a team of reporters three months to interview officials, pore over ministry budgets and make calculations. The exercise was filled with frustration, but the conclusion drawn is that since 1967, Israel has spent roughly $10 billion on the settlements. Currently, the annual amount spent on settlements' civilian needs is more than $500 million.
One of the reasons the Haaretz study was so difficult to carry out is that the Israeli government's budgets have purposefully hidden spending on settlements within other costs, bundling them with subsidies to border communities and those in the Negev Desert, areas where people need to be induced to live either because of risk or limited economic opportunities. This cover-up is part of an unhappy pattern. Look at any government map of Israel, and you will find no border demarcating the occupied territories. Although Israel has never officially annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it has treated them, in many ways, as if it had. This means that those seeking to establish Jewish towns and villages in the captured lands have benefited from generous government subsidies: personal income tax breaks, grants and loans for house purchases, bonuses for teachers. The Jewish settlers, who now number 230,000, have been granted special bypass highways, water supplies and health clinics. Even the cheery red-roofed bedroom settlements a few miles from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are treated as if they were distant depressed towns. Teachers who settle in them, for example, get four years' seniority, an 80 percent housing subsidy and 100 percent reimbursement for travel, and more. The result, according to Haaretz, is that the average settler family benefits from about $10,000 more per year of government spending than a family living within Israel proper.
Here's the deal. Pretty much every one of us - regardless of whether we live in the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Africa, lives on land taken from other people by conquest. That's pretty much the basic story behind our history as humans. The question becomes: When do we stop the clock? In 1967, Israel took by force of arms the territories known as the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. They held them, originally, as a defense against conventional military invasion, as had been attempted in 1948, was imminent in 1967, and was tried again in 1973. With those territories, came a population of Arabs - many displaced in the conflicts of 1948, and loosely Jordanian, Syrian, and Egyptian at first - but now and forever Palestinian. The question is simple: Did Israel hold those territories as conquest, with the intent of expanding into them? Or were they a military buffer and political bargaining chip? As a military buffer, events, history, and military technology appear to have passed their usefulness by. As a political bargaining chip, Israel seems to find itself in the predicament of the kidnappers who took Bette Midler in 'Ruthless People' one wants them back. So what we're left with is conquest. Morally, many (including me) find that repugnant. And the official claim is that Israel doesn't intent to take over ("colonize," for lack of a better term) the Occupied Territories; Israeli efforts to negotiate some kind of 'land for peace' deal would support that. But... building an increasingly dense network of civilian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, what happens on the ground looks like a creeping colonization. So as much as I'm happy to bust the Arab world for talking peace and diplomacy in English and bombs and bullets in Arabic, I have to wonder how it is that we're talking diplomacy and ceding control of the Occupied Territories in English, and budgeting for new construction in Hebrew. Let me note one thing: I haven't changed my opinion that offering statehood to the Palestinian people, as things stand today, would be a fool's errand. Either there is no government capable of containing the violence of the various sects, or the government is duplicitously claiming that it cannot. In neither case has anyone these shown me that they deserve the keys. But while we figure out how to deal with the charmingly erratic nature of the Palestinian polity, we need to do so from a position that is sustainable - militarily, economically, politically, and morally. And I've gotta question whether the current policies - of quietly burying a huge budget to subsidize people to move into the settlements, while talking about handing them back to the Palestinians - are sustainable on any of those grounds. Militarily, the original justification for settlements was they would provide 24/7 sets of Israeli eyes to assure that there would be no pre-invasion buildup. Between satellite imagery and Predators, that justification seems pretty much evaporated at this point. I have to believe that in the face of constant, low-intensity attacks such as we are seeing now, the settlements cost a great deal more in readiness than they provide. Economically, the Haaretz articles seem to speak for themselves. Politically, I used to think that the slowly growing settlements were a ploy to induce the Arab world to hurry up and negotiate - if they waited too long, there wouldn't be any land left over to make into Palestine. It may be that we're hitting that point now (back to 'Ruthless People' again). But the fact is that Israel has to figure out what to do with the population in the West Bank- having done too little over the last 20 years has created the conditions we see today, in which crazed leaders can make strapping on a Semtex belt seem like a sensible thing to do. I have come to believe that Israel should either annex the Territories and deport anyone who objects - and take the political conseuences, which I believe would be catastrophic - or find a way to give them up. Neither of those processes is helped by this current policy of accretion. And morally, it's hard to look at the policy of settlements while negotiating to give it back without a certain level of repugnance. It's duplicitious at best, while a public and absolute freeze on settlements - and even a meaningful rollback of some of the less-defensible ones - would at a time of profound Arab weakness, should be seen as a sincere act and demonstration of good faith. M. Simon emailed the following in response to my intial snippet of a comment:
To Armed Liberal, Since the comments are broken I have this reply about settlements. If Arabs and Muslims living in Israel are no obstacle to peace please explain how Jews living in the Palestinian territories are an obstacle to peace? If that is not good enough then you might consider that for a peace deal that was real Israel has dismantled settlements in the past. Why wouldn't they do it again? Settlements are an imaginary obstacle. Land is not being taken from Arabs. Land which once belonged to the Jordanian government (which they have long since renounced) is being used. Simon
And I owe him a reply. First, and foremost, the Arabs who live in Israel do so freely as members of the Israeli community - they are subject to israeli laws, participate in the israeli economy, and do so with the free and full consent of the Israeli government. Settlers live in enclaves, subject to Israeli law rather than what passes for Palestinian law, and do so over the protest of much of Palestinian society. If Arab governments bought or expropriated (as Israel has done to property once owned by the Jordanian or Egyptina governments) land and built enclaves for Palestinians within Israel, subject to Jordanian law, the people of Israel would be rightly outraged. Why is it different for the Arabs? Yes, they can be dismantled for a peace deal, but I've got to believe that as they and the people who live in them get more and more entrenched it will be less and less possible to do so every year. And personally, I'd rather see the $500 million/year spent more constructively by being offered directly as a bribe to the Palestinians for peace. Fred Lapides also blogged this at Israpundit

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Tracked: October 22, 2003 3:17 PM
Excerpt: U nlike most of their US counterparts, Canadian conservative weblogs are often well-researched, reasonable, bile-free, and informative to read.


I have to agree with you AL. The settlements are military and politically foolish. They aren't needed, and create even more ammor for the Europeans and Arabs to fire. I think that the death of Yassir Arafat will be the turning point. His passing will determine what steps Israel will take to secure itself. If someone genuinelly concerned with peace takes hold, then its time to roll them back. But if the result is more of the same(talk about peace to the US and Europe, preach war to your people), or even worse (overt) militants seize power, then its time to transplant. I find it morally repugnant myself, but I feel it would be more supportable than the alternative.

I'm glad you took this up in full. Odd that it's so quiet in the comments, though.

I do think your (admittedly alternative) idea to "annex the Territories and deport anyone who objects" is absurd. One question reveals the absurdity.

Would the annexation be announced as "We have good news for you Arabs - you now are a part of Israel, and you have full rights to vote in the next Knesset election?"

Of course the Arabs would not object to that, certainly not Arafat - it would mean the demographic end of Israel as a Jewish state within ten years or so.

Another question would be: Would all the people deported for "objecting" to annexation be Arabs, since many, if not most, Israelis would also object to the annexation.

Who would determine which Arabs "object?" The Likud gov't? Gush Emunim? I suspect that under this formulation we would find that all the Arabs "objected."

I've said it: Israel must withdraw from almost all of the 1967 acquired territories. If they build a wall along the 1967 boundary, the security threat is 90% gone (remember that the USA just removed the major security threat to the west). Air defense and counterbattery systems further reduce the threat from rockets, etc.

William Pfaff wrote on the subject this weekend:

"Everyone understands that Israel must choose between three possibilities.
One is to accept the principle upon which this Geneva draft plan is based: retirement from the territories seized in 1967 (with modest modifications, as detailed in the plan), so as to live as a democracy alongside an independent Palestinian state.
The second is to continue military control of the territories while the current Palestinian population, within five to eight years, comes to outnumber the Jewish population. In that case a democratic Israel will cease to be a Jewish state, or the Jewish state will cease to be a democracy, dominating (if it can) an enlarging Arab majority deprived of civic rights.
The third option is the one the Sharon government obviously has chosen, with Bush administration acquiescence. As New York University's Tony Judt puts it, it is for Israel to become 'the first modern democracy to conduct full-scale ethnic cleansing as a state project,' and thus to become a permanent 'international pariah.'"

Remember, we are talking about millions of Arabs being deported for the sake of maybe 20,000 Israeli settlers. I say 20,000 because that's about the number who are out in places like Hebron and Ariel and along the banks of the Jordan, not the ones who are along the 1967 boundaries of Israel, in what are effectively suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and who could be accomodated in the Geneva proposal.

klaatu -

well, you may not like the option, but note the words "which I believe would be catastrophic"...and I do.


But you seem to imply it's less catastrophic that giving the Pals their state (and building a "fair" wall, in my suggestion)?

Absolutely less catastrophic than a) pulling back, plus b) building a wall, plus c) giving the Palestinians their own state.

The Palestinian state would fail ASAP and be in the hands of the jihadis in a month.

This would lead back to the 'push them out' model, but this time with far more bloodshed.

In terms of what I really think ought to happen, it's a) and b) and some grownups with guns taking charge of the Occupied Territories until things there settle down enough to restore some version of real politics. Not sure who fills that role; I'd rather it wasn't us, and on the other hand, I can't see the French or the smurfs (UN blue helmets) being effective at it.

But I think that Israel is pursuing the worst of all possible policies by acting as thouhg it were colonizing - slowly - and talking like it wants to gove it back.


Creeping Snail Colonization is not helping Israel, which is something, that to me at least, seems pretty self evident. Spending 500 million dollars a year on extra-territorial settlments while you have a budget crisis is simply crazy.

As for ethnic cleansing, that generally refers to killing, not "transplanting" people. Doesn't mean its not wrong though. But as it is, the Palis simply can't govern themselves. Any Pali state created in the near future would be a haven for terror groups, if not openy hostile to Israel. This means that the terror attacks will not cease. So what incentive does Israel have for giving up that territory?

Not much, IMO. But its time for Israel to do something, the status quo is unacceptable. A phased pull out(after Arafat is dead) is the only choice that is politically feasible for the US to support. Keep Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and perhaps the biggest settlement or two(for the short term anyway). Which means that Israel can then hide behind the wall. Israel will likely have to endure some heavy attacks for a couple of months, but then it can simply point out that the Palis haven't stopped their terror. And then the road is clear to take decisive action against the state largely responsible for Pali terrorism(Syria). Once Syria's military is removed, the IDF can effectively remove the terror infrastructure. This, and the threat to carry this out elsewhere, should reduce the support for terror by Arab states. And hopefully Iran will have revolted by then.

Sorry for the rambling post.

FH is absolutely correct - the settlements are militarily and politcally foolish.

The motivation for the settlements is neither military nor political - it is religious and ideological. There are people in the Israeli government, and in Israeli society who believe that the Zionist state has not yet reached its full proportions. The Jews who first came to establish Israel in the '30s viewed themselves as noble warrior-farmers. They bought much land from absentee Arab landlords who lived in Cairo and Paris, and displaced some of the local population.

It is true that settlements have been dismantled in the past. Usually news cameras are there to document how much resistance the Israeli settlers put up to the Israeli army. Each time one of these settlements is dismantled, there is a large amount of publicity about how difficult it is to shift the settlers.

I believe Israel has been of two minds about this issue since 1967. There are some who wish to push on with the settlemtents. They tend to be on the Israeli right. There are those who wish to end the settlements. Those tend to be on the Israeli left.

Unfortunately, due to the way the Knesset functions, the most extreme factions have a large say in what goes on. The proportion of Israelis who believe G-d has justified cutting off the Palestinians from water probably doesn't exceed %20. I'm sure it's not greater than %25.

On the other side of the isle, the rampant idiocy of the international Left also infected Israel during the '90s. So a bunch of damn-fool leftists decided to make "peace" with the people Israel had been in the business of oppressing for 20-30 years. And so they decided to bring in the Left-wing approved Egyptian freedom fighter to lord over the Palestinians - Yasser Arafat - Left-wing approved because he's full of creamy, chocolatey Warsaw Pact terrorist training. See Ion Pacepa for details.

Suddenly it was acceptable to fly a Palestinian flag. Not only that, but Arafat and the "Tunisian gang" came in and took over. His Soviet sponsor was lost, but he just found new ones. Much of his new money came from Islamist sources, so now he, too was Islamist. But he still used his Warsaw Pact bag-o-tricks: use lots of front organizations, condemn the violence, position yourself as the moderate.

The left-wing politicians and journalists (especially the European ones) just kept lapping it up - just like they did for the Warsaw Pact!

So now, the present situation is this: the Palestinians remain impoverished due to the corruption of the Palestinian Authority/PLO, the UN.

We have a right-wing Israeli government that has resumed its work of conquering the occupied territories, and keeping the Palestinians from developing a proper economy.

Since almost the time he set foot in his new feifdom, Arafat has been busy building up about a dozen different security forces, and indocrinating the Palestinian people with hatred of Israel. He focused especially on the children, and those children, grown up, are now his primary weapon. The Palestinian death cult runs deep.

So there now exists a position where, if the Israelis pull back all settlements, they would be rewarding the terrorists. But Israel will never be secure as long as the current situation continues.

The best solution would be this - Jordan regains control of the West Bank. This would put King Abdullah in a difficult position, as his Hashemite family is already a minority ruling over a Palestinian majority. But suppose the House of Saud falls - the Hashemites regain thier traditional role as rulers of Mecca and Medina. Then the West Bank would be a minor part of the Palestinian province.

However, this solution doesn't do much for the Gaza situation, and my scenario further assumes that there be vision and long-range planning in the United States government. I increasingly believe that the Bush adminstration really doesn't have a coherent end-state in mind for the Middle East - they're just grab-assing their way through the war.

Therefore, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by the Israeli government is the likely outcome.

Oh, almost forgot *the all-important link.

There is one simple solution that doesn't seem to be on anybody's radar and I suspect that the reason it is not says some very ugly things about our assumptions about arabs.

The Palestinian Authority can have its civil war and the moderates can win, renouncing the idea that the PA will be judenrein (jew free). The PA can ask for all the territories back and simply create an even handed minorities policy for jews, christians, and other religious minorities that is fair and evenhanded to everyone. Land that has been seized for settlement will require just compensation to the owner and if the present occupants won't pay, they get chucked off the land without recompense for their improvements.

Israel runs out of excuses, the settlers can go to Israel and start their lives over or live as citizens effectively under muslim rule, and Palestine is created.

The settlement issue is a phony issue. It only has life because of everybody's unspoken assumption that arabs are necessarily unthinking, bloodthirsty, jew killers. And isn't that sad all around?

TM -

If it was just Israelis and palestinians, your scenario might be plausible. But the reality is that the Palestinians area proxy army for the Arabs who want Israel gone and will fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood.


Exactly, there can be no peace right now. That makes me angry, and that is why I think Israel, along with the US, needs to fix up the rest of the ME. The Palis carry out terror attacks thanks to foreign support, their economy can't support the Intifada alone. By selecting encouraging reform and/or open revolt/regime change in select ME countries, the US can slowly drain the money supply that goes to terror groups. And remove places to train outside Israel and the West Bank/Gaza. This, combined with a new generation of Palestian leadership that supports the peace process, might make peace possible. Of course, we have no idea how long this may take. Or if said moderates will take power. I suspect they won't without foreign involvement, as the militants already have foreing support.


Your point about "conquest" would be stronger if the conflicts in 1948, 1967, and 1973 had occurred due to Israeli aggression. In response to the repeated Arab attempts at genocide, Israel was fully justified in taking as much territory as it felt it could hold.

The ONLY justification for returning that land was called "land for peace." Scratch the surface of "land for peace," and you get "appease the terrorists." Oslo and Camp David made this abundantly clear. That process failed. Who would have guessed?

TM Lutas,

Your naivete is amusing, but you are living in lalaland. Why on earth would the Palestinian moderate win a Palestinian civil war? He'd have to find his way back out of the cellar he's been hiding in these past couple of decades. Yassir Arafat and Hamas have put a bloody end to any attempts at building a constituency for peaceful coexistence. Those people were called "collaborators" and killed.

"...everybody's unspoken assumption that arabs are necessarily unthinking, bloodthirsty, jew killers. And isn't that sad all around?"

Aren't you really asking, "Isn't it sad you guys are a bunch of racists?" No, what is sad is that the Palestinian Authority is actually run by bloodthirsty jew killers--although I would not call them unthinking.


"It's duplicitious at best, while a public and absolute freeze on settlements - and even a meaningful rollback of some of the less-defensible ones - would at a time of profound Arab weakness, should be seen as a sincere act and demonstration of good faith."

Should or would? If would, by whom? If should but would not, by anyone who really matters and has not already made up their minds, so what?

I do not like the settlements at all, but the idea that the Israelis should make concrete concessions as demonstrations of good faith has gotten old. Retreats do not cause anybody who matters to accept that Israel is acting in good faith; instead the terrorists are stimulated by rewards which are correctly interpreted as successes for terrorism, and by new resources like conquered areas to use as hot-houses for more terrorism.

A plan to ditch the settlements, logical in itself, should come with a plan to smash the rising flood of terrorism that would follow, and another plan to deal with the terrible political costs of doing that; not with talk that has no concrete sense as long as we know that neither the Arabs, nor non-Arab Muslims such as Dr. Mahathir, nor bribed and malicious judges such as the Europeans are going to accept Israel as acting sincerely and demonstrating good faith whatever the Jews do.

Also, I do not think this time of Arab weakness (but not moderation) to be in itself propitious for deals in good faith. If you and I make a deal, and I then break every part of my deal with scorn, and keep my gains, then I have won and you have lost. (Example: Nixon's peace in Vietnam. The side that agrees to peace and then violates its every commitment with impunity has won, and the side that deals with a foe known to be prone to bad faith, and that does not dare any longer to return and punish cheating, has lost.) In this way, I can be a winner, and glory in it. The gloating is part of the process of turning the opponent's concession into his weakness and my win. This is more, not less, tempting if I am having a bad run, if I cannot expect to score victories by fairer means, and I am badly in need of salve to my ego.

Of course, concessions at a time when the opponent can't enforce them could activate a totally different psychology in a reasonable, fair-minded opponent with a strong sense of honor, let's say Rommel with no Hitler in authority over him. But neither the Israelis nor ourselves have been blessed with such an opponent.

Sam -

If Israel had been the aggressor in those wars, I wouldn't have a lot of interest in what happened to them. They weren't and I do.

"Land for Peace" is a good idea - much like kidnapping a rich guy's wife and demanding ransom, it ought to work. But when do you do when there's no one sane to bargain with?

The costs - in all dimensions - of occupying the Territories are more than Israel can afford, and their value as a bargaining chip or as a military buffer is declining by the month. Something's got to be done.

I don't think Israel would survive the ostracism and internal conflict that would come from relocating the Palestinianh Arabs out of the Occupied Territories (note that from my POV, it wouldn't be a moral act, but that is offset by the moral failure of the Arab and palestinian leadership). So they've got to get out.

The thing that keeps them from getting out is the 30,000 or so settlers, who are addicted to the teat of Israeli subsidies, and need to get or be bought off of it.

What to do once you withdraw is the next problem, and one that can't be solved by the Israelis alone.


David -

Sorry, I know I've mixed two issues and maybe not been clear enough on the distinction. Rolling back on the settlements would be as a side benefit a gesture of goodwill. It would be, I believe, a more practical act in Israel's own interest, as the cost of defending and subsidizing them grows as the number of settlers grows.


The perception issue isn't a "side benefit" but the main reason not to stop.

Israel--like us!--cannot be seen to be capitulating in the face of terror. The PR/morale bonanza for the Paleo absolutists would be incalculable. More terror, less willingness to make peace.

Which isn't to say there isn't a more cost-effective or practical policy wrt the settlements. But the one thing they can't do is go down the path the Paleos want.

I think a Palestinian state would be one of the shortest-lived, if not THE shortest-lived, states in history. Care to give it fifteen minutes?

Three Points:
1) 600 houses is not even natural population growth. Someone in the settlements has a kid. That kid gets married, wants to move next to Mom & Dad. Happens all the time in every other town on the planet. AND, this type of growth was permitted within the framework of Oslo.

2) Ultimately, Settlements represent a claim that Israel is making on the West Bank. One can argue about the legitimacy of the claim. One can argue about the intelligence of the claim. But the Arabs have not given Israel ANY incentive to drop the claim. Rather, Arabs have consistently punished Israel for giving up on claims on territory. The prime two examples are Lebanon and Oslo. That's just the way it is when dealing with the Arab leaders and their populations.

3) That the West Bank Arabs refuse to align themselves with Jordan, which is East Palestine, and insist on making a State within West Palestine so that they have to argue over a small piece of territory, does not incur any extra responsibility on the part of Israel.

The original set of articles from Haaretz on this subject (a New Year Supplement entitled The Price of the Settlements) can be found here. If that doesn't work for some reason, I've also linked them in my post here on Oct 13.

Hope that helps.

A. Berman -

It's irrelevant to my argument whether all the new homes will be occupied by the children of existing settlers; the issue is that Israels "kind of" encroachment into the OT buys nothing in today's market, and costs a ton.

Given that assertion - which you're free to challenge - the only point of holding on to them is a) not to piss off the settlers (who can be bought off) or the fans of Greater Israel; or b) not to be seen as giving in to the Palestinian terrorists.

Problem with b) is that they are effectively crazy (not really, just operating in a different cost/benefit structure), and you're trying to negotiate with them as though they're sane. Back to my Ruthless People metaphor.

Problem with a) is that Israel needs to take a stand. Annex or abandon, choose one. Acting as they do is hard to defend morally, and creates facts on the ground that are hard to defend militarily and politically.



You may wish to re-examine your position that "Israel needs to take a stand. Annex or abandon, choose one."

Israel's official policy (insofar as it can be discerned through clouds of contradictions) is to do both. I.e. to annex a significant fraction of the West Bank and Gaza (most versions fall between 5% and 30%), establish a permanent boundary, and retract all settlements on the "other side". Annex part, abandon part.

This policy sidesteps the dilemma you pose. Israel does not have to expel masses of Palestinians. The few Palestinians on the Israeli side of the border may be expelled, but that need not be a moral catastrophe. When you have a spare minute or two, look up *who won the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize*, and check out that person's works in Greece and Turkey.

This is, of course, a facile solution. Even if Israel chose this path, and abandoned most of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Arabs, it would merely be priming a much larger explosion down the road, as the Palestinian leadership copes with economic failure by inflaming the populace against rump-Israel and calling for a million-martyr-march on Jaffa and Haifa. I thus favour Mr. Stanley's Jordan solution, even while recognizing that it too has only a dim chance of success.

But back to you, A.L. - you seem to base much of your argument against settlements on moral grounds. But you focus only on the Israeli settlements. You think the Palestinian Arabs have not been building new villages since 1967? You think population growth happens only to Israelis? Your position implies that a young Israeli couple has less of a right to build a home in their hometown than a young Arab couple. I find that a morally untenable position. Yes, the Israeli couple can move to Ramat Gan; but the Arab couple can move to Amman.

The West Bank and Gaza are in an anomalous position, A.L. - they don't belong to anyone. They used to be under the British mandate, but the Brits left, whereupon Transjordan seized the West Bank (an annexation recognized by almost nobody) and Egypt seized Gaza. In 1967, Israel took those territories. Claiming that the land "belongs" to the Palestinian Arabs because they were living there in 1967 is problematic, from a moral point of view. The reason there were very few Jews in the West Bank in 1967 is that Jordan slaughtered some and expelled the rest. That cannot be a moral basis for denying Israelis a presence in the West Bank (else, a massacre of Palestinians would serve as a moral basis for denying Palestinian Arabs a claim to the West Bank - which doesn't sound right). The only possible conclusion is that Israel must share these territories with the Palestinian Arabs under some formula.

Given that, the obvious question is, what formula? The Oslo accord provides for a "negotiated solution". One might argue - convincingly - that that agreement imposes a moral obligation on both sides not to prejudice the negotiations. Does the building of 600 new houses in settlements constitute such a prejudicing? I would argue not - at least, no more than the building of 600 new houses in Ramallah. Palestinian Arabs do not have a morally superior claim to the West Bank than Israelis (some would say, they have a morally inferior claim because of their resort to violence) - therefore, rules about prejudice should be evenly applied. If Palestinian construction is permitted to occur without protest, Israeli construction should be accorded the same acquiescence.

Finally, you question the amount of cash diverted to the settlements. I'll set aside your proposed alternative use of the cash (do we really want to give $500 million a year to the people who fund terror, purchase weapons for terror organization - viz. the Karine A - and indoctrinate children into an obscene martyrs' cult?). A more proper question is whether the money should be diverted to other economic needs. To this, I would respond that the settlements receive, per capita, less money than Israel's northern border towns received during the period of active hostilities in Lebanon, despite being more at risk from hostile activity. Of course, one could save money by evacuating them - but then, how much more money would need to be spent on security measures for the Israeli towns inside the Green Line who suddenly find themselves on the front lines of terror? A large city like Tel Aviv makes a much easier target for mortar shells and rockets than a sparse hilltop settlement... And it is an observable fact that suicide attacks diminish as a function of increasing distance from Palestinian population centers - and vice versa.

Jonathan, I obviously think you're way off base. A longer response will follow, but here's a few points:

'Sharing' territory among nations - even allied nations. Interesting concept; can you point me to one place where it's worked? Can't thinkj of one (Don't talk about Post WW II Berlin/Germany - that was an occupation not two interpenetrating soverign states. Don't think so.

My point in the post was that we all live on conquered land, and the decision is when we stop the clock. Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, and the Heights fair and square, and if they determined that they wanted to keep them they should have done so and accepted the consequences. They didn't, and don;t want to - but they want to keep building houses and roads. Hmmm.

Militarily, if you really want to make the claim that a scattering of villages and roads among hostile territory is somehow easier and less expensive to defend than a contiguous territory, have at it. Wave as you walk off the plank, though...

And morally? My issue is simple. If it is wrong to annex the OT, don't. If you are going to, do it and accept the consequences. Sadly, the 'intermediate state' doesn't appear to be sustainable.



Looking forward to reading your more extensive comments.

1. On "sharing" - between 1772 and 1795, Prussia, Austria and Russia "shared" between them the area we now know as Poland. I.e. they divided it, with each empire taking part. More recently, China and the U.S. decided to "share" the Korean peninsula.

2. On military reality - take a look at the proposed separation wall. It meanders, and has awkward protrusions. This is not uncommon. Look at the northeast of Namibia, the southeast of Zaire, and the east-most parts of India. The cost of not annexing territory - and placing Palestinians within shoulder-launched-rocket range of Ben-Gurion airport - is far greater. The plank beckons, but it beckons for you, not me.

3. On the morality of annexation - again, I posit a third choice, of partial annexation. Just because Israel has as much moral right as any other country to annex the entire OT doesn't mean it is morally obligated to annex all or nothing.

Looking forward to your fuller response.

Armed Liberal,

I agree with you now: if the desirability of making gestures of goodwill (unreciprocated concessions) is set aside as a side issue, which I think is reasonable, then "the issue is that Israels "kind of" encroachment into the OT buys nothing in today's market, and costs a ton."

Also, there is the fence. Is it the solution, or merely another (empty) threat to induce the Palestinian leadership to enter into real bargaining before Israel creates facts on the ground, or just useless?

In my view, the fence is a worthless bargaining point, since the Palestinian leadership, with popular and Arab, Muslim and international support, has chosen a different path: war to the elimination of the enemy, that is the Jewish state.

I think physically separating the two (Israeli and Palestinian) populations as much as possible will reduce the terrorism as much as it can be reduced short of pushing the Palestinians away from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So I think the fence is the solution: it should be completed, and closed. Not even a mouse should be allowed through. The economic implications of that for Israel are bad, but you just have to accept them as the least evil on offer. The implication is that everybody who claims to be Israeli on the far side of the fence will have to come home, or face the consequences.

In the long run, the less economic activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip the better.

I think it makes most sense to complete the fence, then yank out the settlements and close the fence fast. That way the interval where there is increased stimulus to terrorism (from the Israeli retreat) and the populations are not yet physically separated would be reduced to a minimum.

I think the best way to deal with further terror, such as mortar attacks, will be to create areas of scorched earth, marked off by more fences. Don't bother with which backyard the bombs came from, just take contiguous territory, empty it, fence it off, and do nothing with it except add to it when there are further terrorist attacks.

But I don't have a plan to cover the diplomatic consequences of doing that.

I'd like to hear some more concrete speculations on the nature of "diplomatic consequences." The way I see it, aggressive action against the Palestinians could be undermined by two, and only two, sources. The first is internal--a chunk of the Israeli political spectrum is firmly committed to non-aggression on moral grounds. If an aggressive stance is to be maintained Likud will have to exhibit a sustained effort of political will and marginalize the Israeli doves.

The second is the level of American support, or at a minimum, continued benign neglect. If the Bush Administration or Congress started to take serious steps towards reducing aid to Israel, this would most likely undermine the strength of aggressive measures. (I see this as the less likely obstacle, however.)

Frankly, nothing else matters. What would the U.N. do, bar Israel from sitting on the Security Council? Introduce resolutions that pass overwhelmingly against Israel in the General Assembly? Oh wait, they do that already....

Would the surrounding Arab states try to intervene? If American posture looks like deposing another Arab tyrant is an available option, I'd expect dithering and nothing concrete from the neighbors. Covert support for the Palestinians, sure, but again, they do that already....

Would Yassir Arafat push for more terrorist activities against Israel? What evidence is there that Hamas, et al., are not already throwing everything they've got, including the kitchen sink, at Israeli civilians right now?

Ultimately, unless you are talking about lower support for Likud within Israel or the possibility of the withdrawal of American support, I don't think the phrase "diplomatic consequences" means anything at all.


Sam Barnes said: "Ultimately, unless you are talking about lower support for Likud within Israel or the possibility of the withdrawal of American support, I don't think the phrase "diplomatic consequences" means anything at all."

I accept that, but I think those are real possibilities, so I still use the phrase "diplomatic consequences."

In general, I think America is in an isolated position, voting often with Israel, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. More power to them. (Well, the Americans already have a lot of power, but you know what I mean.) But I think American support would be more secure in the long run if its real allies would vote with it.

From the votes I vaguely recall, Australia consistently abstains in these votes (having no dog in the fight) and the United Kingdom votes a European, meaning an anti-Israel line. That could be improved. On the other hand, it could be a lot worse, and intense British pressure could put the Americans in an awkward position. Anything that potentially affects America's willingness to stay the course is potentially serious.

Of course, terrorism is also serious, and I've said I'm for the fence, diplomatic consequences or no.

I think the Israeli public has been deeply divided on the "what to do about the Palestinians" issue, which is obviously reflected in their politics--the rise and fall of the appeal of Likud, for instance. Frankly, I don't know where the percentages fall on this division right now, or how committed the long-term support for Likud is among a majority of Israeli voters. At least from my perspective, this is the biggest unknown--the amount of political will that Sharon can muster and maintain in the face of likely obstacles ahead.

American support I have more confidence in, because I have a better understanding of the dynamics. Bush is pro-Israel, and I doubt he'd back off his support for Sharon for any reason short of Sharon pushing the big red button with wild abandon. Congress has also indicated strong support for Israel that crosses party lines in a meaningful way, although my impression is that the Republicans are more united on this issue, while the Democrats split somewhat.

I'd be happy to learn that Australia at least doesn't vote for the anti-Israel ranting that issues forth from the cuckoo General Assembly like clockwork. However, you've hit on an issue that has bothered me a lot in the past, because I don't understand it. WHY won't some of our closest allies, who agree with us on so much else, not support Israel? Is the Jew so universally hated that we can count our fellow supporters of him on one hand, and still not run out of fingers? We've got true friends and allies in people like Tony Blair and John Howard--do they find themselves without the political capital to support a tiny Western democracy with values much like their own? Australia may have no dog in the fight, but what would the symbolic support of one of their closest allies cost them? Frankly, I can't come up with an explanation that isn't deeply shameful for the behavior of most of the Anglosphere in this regard, and that conclusion is a deeply painful one for me to draw.

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