By Shimon Z. Klein 

Israel is writhing over the exchange of Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped soldier held in Gaza by Hamas. The price is the exchange of Palestinian prisoners “with blood on their hands”. A similar scenario is taking place in the north involving the release of the terrorist, Samir Kuntar, (held for the 1979 murder of Israeli civilians in Nahariya, four Hezbollah fighters captured during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and the remains of dozens of Lebanese buried in Israel), for Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah who are feared dead. Israel’s moral fiber is showing signs of cracking. 

Now the referral of Israel as a Jewish state, which was understood without undue emphasis, has become an issue that has been bandied about, not only by Israel’s enemies, but also by its supporters. Is this because of atrocities that Israel is carrying out in the occupied territories against the Palestinians? The fact that existing illegal settlements are expanding under the guise of natural population growth creates tremendous hardships for the Palestinians. This means that increasing the number of settlements will result in less land being available for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State alongside Israel. In the end the creation of a Palestinian state will become a myth. This will result in movement towards the establishment of a binational state. Israel cannot have it both ways. It cannot continue the occupation of Palestinian lands captured after the 1967 Six Day June War and at the same time pay lip service to an independent Palestinian state while the occupation expands.  

The illegal settlement expansion is continuing under the watchful eye of the Israeli Army. This gives rise to more roadblocks, more humiliating body searches of Palestinians and further difficulties for them. Their agricultural lands will be divided even further to make way for settlement expansion as well as the establishment of more Jewish settlements.  In order to maintain this intolerable situation, human rights of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank will be eroded even further. How does this fit in with Israel’s claim of being a moral democratic state emphasizing its Jewishness, and with it, Jewish values? Cracks are appearing in the future survival of Israel as a moral Jewish state. 

In an article, “Israel’s Split Psyche” by Prof. Carlo Strenger in Haaretz of 2nd July 2008, many questions are raised. He mentions that the Labor Party MK, Avishay Braverman, who was addressing the Institute of National Security Studies annual State of the Nation conference, made the following statement: “Our education system, once Israel’s pride, is in the dumps; public corruption is rampant; our universities are starving to death; and the income gap is almost as bad as Brazil’s”. 

He wrote that Braverman’s statements “reflect a general malaise that pervades Israel’s public mood. For the first time in Israel’s history, skepticism about its viability, worries about its public norms, and questions about whether it will still exist in 50 years creep through society and the media. This is puzzling: Israel was in much greater external danger in the past, and its economic and military resources are more developed today than ever before”.  

On the one hand, Israel claims to accept and respect the moral principle of universal human rights. On the other hand Israel causes suffering to millions of Palestinians on the West Bank because of the settlements that are expanding not to mention the loss of income and unemployment as a result. This is unjustifiable and yet Israel turns a blind eye. Israeli cries of “There is no partner” or “The roadblocks are needed to prevent terror attacks” or “Look what happened when we left Gaza! We left, and all we get is Qassam attacks!” is a sop to their conscience and in the Israeli view, justifies settlement expansion.  

There is no doubt that the settlements in the West Bank have created a situation that has made the lives of the Palestinians intolerable, whether it is check posts, road blocks, or separation fence that divides Palestinian farm lands. Movement for Palestinians in the West Bank is an exercise in resilience and endless suffering – all for the sake of protecting right-wing religious Zionist fanatics, many of whom are ex-patriot US freaks. They build themselves palaces on Palestinian lands while their Palestinian neighbours live in poverty. They are the stimulus for promoting hatred of Israel because of their illegal building habits according to international law. 

The settlements in the occupied territories are eroding Israel’s moral fiber and are destroying the idea of the establishment of a future viable Palestinian state. It is not serving Israel’s security interests as it is a catalyst for further Palestinian hate of Israel. The roadblocks, expropriation of Palestinian lands for Israeli settlements increases Palestinian hardships by making travel for them an exercise in endurance. At the same time, Israel builds high class freeways for connecting the various settlements forbids Palestinians from using these freeways. It is no wonder that many Palestinians are convinced that Israel does not want to make peace with them.  If Israel behaves in this way, showing lack of sensitivity towards Palestinian hardships while ensuring the settlers’ good quality of life at Palestinian expense, peace and coexistence between the two peoples will never be achieved.

 Israel’s survival as a moral entity in the Middle East can only be assured if the settlements in the West Bank are uprooted and the settlers resettled in Israel. The lands must be returned to the rightful owners – the Palestinian people. This will pave the way for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. 

The alternative is to leave the situation as it is which will result in the demise of Israel and the eventual establishment of a binational state in the future. These are the only two options that Israel has. There is no third option. The settlers will create a situation whereby Israelis become citizens of a binational Israeli-Palestinian state.                                   

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