Nov. 22, 2019
Israel’s Settlements Are Not the Principal Obstacle to Peace with the Palestinians – Bret Stephens (New York Times)
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are a number of outmoded beliefs: That the conflict can be solved by returning to the status quo ante 1967. That peace between Israel and the Arab states hinges on delivering a Palestinian state. And that settlement construction is the principal obstacle to peace. This is all nonsense.
The pan-Arab campaign to “liberate” Palestine began two decades before Israel controlled an inch of Gaza or the West Bank. Relations with much of the Arab world have flourished in recent years, not on account of any progress on the Palestinian front, but because Arab states see Israel as a capable ally against an imperialist Iran.
As for settlements, Israel withdrew all of its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005. The result was more war, not less. It would be worse than useless to demand that Israelis repeat the experiment on a much larger scale.
As a matter of survival, Israel requires that a Palestinian state have neither the ambition nor the means to devote itself to Israel’s destruction. The core problem with the past half-century of failed peacemaking efforts has been the facile assumption that meeting the need for two states would ultimately fulfill Israel’s requirement for security. The lesson of experience has been the opposite.
The administration’s ruling on settlements cleans out some of the cobwebs under which thinking about the conflict has moldered. Peace, if it comes, will not be the result of a legal argument over the Geneva Convention. It will happen when a new generation of Palestinian leaders dedicate themselves to building up the institutions of a decent state rather than attacking those of their neighbor.