Thursday, March 18, 2010

Soft on Settlements?

All this fuss about apartments in East Jerusalem?

I have come to believe that indignation about the so-called "settlements" is purely pretextual. Both the Palestinians and the Obami are using this incident as a pretext for doing what they wanted to do anyway - isolate Israel in public opinion. And the Europeans are lapping it up. The Palestinians and the Europeans vilified Israel before the settlements were an issue and will not be placated whatever Israel does.

The settlement issue is fraught with myth and missinformation. It is presented as if Israel is a colonizer on Palestinian land. As Ruth Wisse points out in today's WSJ, Israeli citizens have historically got the worst of the land stuggle. Looking at a map it is hard to believe that this is about land - about living space. Twenty one countries, with 800 times more land, much of it unsettled, are obsessing about Israel building appartments in Jerusalem. As Bret Stephens of the WSJ has put it, this is not a territorial struggle, it is an existential one. It is Israel's existence that is the issue.

The conventional wisdom is that Bibi was surprised by the announcement by his government. It may well be that he is trying to send a message to American Jews to wake up and realize that those who warned that Obama is basically an Arab sympathizer were more right than imagined - Ram Emanuel being an ex-Israeli notwithstanding.

As I say, the settlement issue is a complicated one - not so simple as the world press makes it out. Some of them are private purchases; all of them are in disputed territory, not self-evidently Palestinian. As a rule I do not like government appropriation and development of land wherever it occurs. But this is not the issue here.

It is important to point out that the presence of these Israelis in the territories is often a boost to the Palestinian economy. They bring jobs at fair wages and work conditions, and stimulate trade. And now the EU has decided to boycott the products of this industry. Typical.

In fact trade between the Palestinians and Israel is quietly growing. This is absolutely the best hope for peace in the region as both sides develop a vested interest in each other. But expect the EU, the Palestinians leaders and other thugs to disrupt this trade. It is very threatening to them and their raison d' etre. So it is going to be crushed!

I hope the 78% of American Jews who voted for Obama are rethinking their choice. If not Israel is really in trouble. We know America is, for a host of other Obama-related reasons.

No comments: