Theodore Bikel, the 86-year old Jewish acting and musical legend, who starred as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, is quoted in the Forward thus:
Anyone who has strong feelings for Israel like I do, and that believes it is an absolute necessity to strive for peace, understands that the single most obvious obstacle are the settlements. [my emphasis]
The article goes on to explain that this is why Bikel signed a petition urging Israeli artists to not perform in settlements, and then quotes far-left actor Ed Asner,
“I would like to see this kind of courage among American actors,” Asner said in a telephone interview with the Forward. The eight-time Emmy Award winner praised the Israeli actors for “taking a stand on an issue that no one else wants to touch.”
No one else wants to touch it? Give us a break. These ‘courageous’ actors are on the same side as the Israeli academic and media establishment, the European Union, Barack Obama and the entire Arab and Muslim world!
Anyway, I don’t doubt Bikel’s love of Israel or his Zionist credentials, but he’s wrong. Here are five simple reasons why settlements are not “the single most obvious obstacle to peace.” Then I will reveal what it really is (it won’t be a surprise to regular readers).
- The presence of settlements east of the 1949 armistice line is a matter for negotiation, as is the location of the future border. The 2000 Clinton-Barak proposals that were rejected by Yasser Arafat implied that settlements in areas that would become ‘Palestine’ would be removed. But saying that “[all] settlements are an obstacle” prejudges the outcome of negotiations. Are East Jerusalem neighborhoods ‘settlements’? Which ones? What about Gush Etzion, El Kana, Modi’in Illit?
- If settlements are “the single most obvious obstacle” then one would think that removing them might reduce conflict. But the total removal of settlements from Gaza was associated with an increase in terrorism and ultimately war. What reason do those calling for the end of the settlements east of the line have to think it would be different there?
- Palestinian Arab terrorism just since 2000 has killed more than 1000 Israeli Jewish civilians and injured thousands more. Doesn’t it make more sense to think that murder is a greater obstacle to peace than a few towns whose presence Israel is prepared to negotiate?
- Hamas makes no secret of its desire to commit genocide and controls the area where 40% of the Palestinian Arab population lives. It is more popular than the PLO/Fatah regime in Judea/Samaria. Doesn’t it make more sense to think that Hamas is a greater obstacle to peace than the settlements?
- The Palestinian Authority, with whom Israel is negotiating, continues to feed its population — especially young people — the vilest antisemitic incitement, which clearly advocates the murder of Jews. Doesn’t it make sense to think that incitement is a greater obstacle to peace than the settlements?
No, settlements are not the single most obvious obstacle to peace. The biggest obstacle is the Palestinian narrative, which insists that the Palestinians cannot accept anything less than complete surrender to all of their demands:
- No acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state,
- No Jewish presence east of the 1949 lines,
- No demilitarization, even temporary, of ‘Palestine’
- A ‘right of return’ for Palestinian ‘refugees’ into Israel.
All this is combined with the principle that Israel bears all the responsibility for the conflict!