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Argument: Israeli settlements do not impede creation of Palestine

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Supporting quotations

Elliott Abrams. "The Settlement Freeze Fallacy". The Washington Post. April 8, 2009: "Is current and recent settlement construction creating insurmountable barriers to peace? A simple test shows that it is not. Ten years ago, in the Camp David talks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, with a land swap to make up half of the 6 percent Israel would keep. According to news reports, just three months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered 93 percent, with a one-to-one land swap. In the end, under the January 2009 offer, Palestinians would have received an area equal to 98 to 98.5 percent of the West Bank (depending on which press report you read), while 10 years ago they were offered 97 percent. Ten years of settlement activity would have resulted in a larger area for the Palestinian state.

How is this possible? For one thing, most settlement activity is in those major blocs that it is widely understood Israel will keep. For another, those settlements are becoming more populated, not geographically larger. Most settlement expansion occurs in ways that do not much affect Palestinian life. While the physical expansion of settlements may take land that Palestinians own or use, and may interfere with Palestinian mobility or agricultural activity, population growth inside settlements does not have that effect. For the past five years, Israel's government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States but never formally adopted: that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas. The clear purpose of the guidelines? To allow for settlement growth in ways that minimized the impact on Palestinians.

Israel has largely, but not fully, kept to those rules; there has been physical expansion in some places, and the Palestinian Authority is right to object to it. Israeli settlement expansion beyond the security fence, in areas Israel will ultimately evacuate, is a mistake: It wastes Israeli resources and needlessly antagonizes the Palestinians who live nearby. But the overall impact of such recent activity -- as Olmert's proposal to Abbas showed -- has not undermined Israel's ability to negotiate peace and offer a territorial compromise.

Settlement activity is not diminishing the territory of a future Palestinian entity. In fact, the emphasis on a "settlement freeze" draws attention from the progress that's needed to lay the foundation for full Palestinian self-rule -- building a thriving economy, fighting terrorism through reliable security forces and establishing the rule of law. A "settlement freeze" would not help Palestinians face today's problems or prepare for tomorrow's challenges. The demand for a freeze would have only one quick effect: to create immediate tension between the United States and Israel's new government. That may be precisely why some propose it, but it is also why the Obama administration should reject it."


David Meir-Levi. "Occupation and settlement: the myth and reality". Front Line Magazine. June 24, 2005: "Are the settlements an obstacle to peace? From 1949-1967 there were no settlements in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Nor was there peace. Arab belligerence was unrelated to West Bank and Gaza settlements. The settlements to which the Arabs objected at that time were Tel Aviv, Haifa, Hadera, Afula, etc.

In June, 1967, immediately after the Six Day War, and before there were any Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel proposed its dramatic peace initiative both at the UN and in sub rosa talks with Jordan. This initiative was rejected by all Arab states and the PLO at the Khartoum Conference in August-September, 1967. The obstacle to peace was the very existence of Israel, not settlements in the West Bank.

1. In 1979, as part of the accord with Egypt, Israeli settlements in Sinai were evacuated. In the context of a peace treaty, settlements are negotiable, can be, and were, dismantled.

2. In 1979, as part of the accord with Egypt, Israel froze settlement expansion for three months, in order to encourage entry of Jordan into the Egypt-Israel peace process. Jordan refused. The freezing of settlements did not stimulate peaceful interaction. Arafat too (then engaged in creating a terrorist state in south Lebanon) was invited to join Egypt at the peace talks, and this settlement freeze was intended to encourage his participation. He refused. The existence of settlements in Sinai did not interfere with the Israel-Egypt peace accords; and the freeze on settlement activities did not encourage Jordan or the PLO to enter into peace accords."

3. In 1994, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel, while settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were growing in size and increasing in number. The existence and expansion of the settlements in no way impaired the peace process with Jordan.

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