MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
On the face of it, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert talked a good line about peace and fighting terror in his election campaign and in his trip to the United States. Olmert's government supposedly represents peace loving and pragmatic Israel. He is willing to give up a large part of the West Bank in order to obtain security in his unilateral convergence (or realignment) plan. He is also willing to talk peace with Palestinian partners, if any such can be found, says Olmert.
Actions, however, speak louder than words. The new settlement of Maskiot tells us that that Olmert's governments may not be the government a lot of Israelis thought they had voted for, and Olmert's policies may not be precisely what he sold to the Americans. Maskiot is probably the first new settlement to be created outside Jerusalem, with full government approval, since the Oslo peace process began. Its establishment violates two undertakings to the United states: Not to establish new settlements and not to settle settle evacuees from Gaza in them. True, the settlement existed as an army base, and Israel may claim it is only "firming up" an existing settlement. However, that is clearly not the case.
The new settlement should not really be a surprise to those who have been following Israeli moves and Olmert's utterances. IN February, while he was still campaigning, he was quoted as saying that Israel would retain control of the Jordan Valley. Some have chosen to interpret this as meaning that Israel would annex the Jordan Valley, others believe that Olmert only intends to control the routes leading to the Jordan valley. At the same time, there were alarming reports that Israel had tightened up checkpoint entries to the Jordan Valley, refusing entry to Palestinian Arabs who did not live there. Betselem, with its usual penchant for exaggeration, announced in February that Israel had "annexed" the Jordan Valley de facto.
The new settlement was approved by supposedly dovish Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Apparently those who voted for him didn't get what they voted for, any more than Olmert's voters did. The Labor party in general seems to acquiesce in the move. Like Olmert, they have always believed the Jordan Valley (actually a mountainous area - the back of the mountain range) is essential for defense of Israel against the "Eastern Threat." This enlightened strategic conception was formed about 1948 in connection with the invasion by the Transjordan Legion and Iraqi forces at the time. It is absurd to think that the generals in the Labor-Kadima strategic brain trust have determined that if one million Islamist fanatics of the Iranian Pasdaran come pouring over the border, having somehow gotten across all of Iraq and Jordan, they will be stopped by the thirty families of Maskiot, or that this settlement will somehow be of value in detecting and stopping nuclear ICBMs aimed at Israel.
It is absurd, but we have to believe it is so. Someone bigger and smarter must know more than we do. Otherwise, does it make sense to start a new settlement in view of the announced "consolidation" or "realignment" plan? After investing so much energy in advertising the convergence plan, and putting so much effort into convincing people that Israel is willing to be reasonable about territorial concessions and to make room for a viable Palestinian state, does it make any sense to do the opposite? To risk Israel's relations with the US in order to put one settlement of thirty families on the map? To settle a broad swath of the West Bank, about 20% of the area, and insist that Israel is not giving it up? Since there are so few Palestinians settled in the Jordan Valley, perhaps the Israeli government thinks it can gain a decisive majority by putting a few thousand more settlers there. Then the government might announce that the Jordan valley is a settlement bloc where demographic realities prevent evacuation, like Ariel or the Efrat area. Can Israeli leaders think they can set the borders of Israel so far to the east that virtually nothing at all is left of the Palestinian state? Will the UN, the US, the EU, the Arab states simply accept the "facts on the ground?" Perhaps the Palestinians can never make make peace and perhaps they will never be able to set up a state. But Ehud Olmert promised in good faith to at least let them try, and to give negotiations a chance. How does the Maskiot settlement and the closing off of the Jordan Valley fit in with that program? It doesn't of course. It is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time, if Israel has any real intentions of making peace with the Palestinians.
Curiously, Palestinians and pro-Palestinian groups who are so obsessed with the Security Fence and with the settlement of Maaleh Edumim, don't seem to care at all about the Jordan Valley. Saeeb Erekat is perhaps the only Palestinian to raise the matter. The Americans and the EU are mostly silent, and so are the Arab states.
On the other hand, perhaps none of it makes sense. Perhaps the drive to settle is an irrational compulsion that afflicts the Israeli government, just as some people may be afflicted by compulsive exhibitionism or kleptomania. Put the Israeli government in Antarctica or on the Moon, and they will start making plans to settle it. Their friends are embarrassed and ignore the aberration.
In any case, when you try to understand the puzzle of Israeli and Palestinian policies, don't ignore the Jordan Valley piece of the jigsaw. It is a very big piece that almost nobody is talking about.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000469.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 7 comments
Dear sir. There has been enough talking Time about the Land of Israel by All
that stupid people wont read and or Believe Zechariah:12,1-10...what is in that
Posted by Roy C. Hudson @ 06/04/2006 12:41 AM CST
That would be one of your Christian Zionists, I take it?
Posted by Chris @ 06/04/2006 10:16 PM CST
I think the settlements should be examined as a business practice. A habit of business. I would be very interested in readng about any figures or facts about the economics of these settlements, down to details as who was the cement dealer.
I think it would be interesting to see a kind of economic snapshot of all who benefit from continued building,all who are making money.
I think in such an analysys, would help to illuminate hidden forces that seem to continue play out
Posted by will @ 06/05/2006 09:35 PM CST
Mr Roy hudson, how can anyone respond to your comments. If you are a biblical scholar, please enlighten us on why Israel that you talk about was not created before the slaughter of millions of jews? Why do you think that Israel of today is the Israel that was talked about in the bible. Why didn't god eliminate all the inhabitiants who have lived for thousands of years on the land of Palestine and then create Israel? Was it the intention of the people to create a jewish state that only exists in a state of war with it's surrounding in order to bring about the end of the world as some hard line christians need?
Posted by Mike Jebara @ 06/06/2006 04:18 PM CST
Mike, I don't want to support Roy, but to answer your question: why Israel that you talk about was not created before the slaughter of millions of jews?
The answer is as obvious as the answer to the question why a state called Palestine or Jordan or Kuwait or Syria could only come to being in the 20 century. Up until then the world was devided between powerful empires. Furthermore, up until then the world was divided between few large religions, Islam and Christianity (except for China and other far east countries. The idea of nationalism did not exist in its modern form, and the idea of individual or collective rights (self determination) surely did not. Uner the circumstances many peoples could not dream of indepenent states, surely not the Jews, who were small, weak, dispersed, despised and subjugated by both Christianity and Isalm, and whose land was claimed by both religion as well as a major passage. It was only in the 19th-20th centuries that a unique combination of cultural and political circumstances made buillding a Jewish state possible. Prior to that whenever Jews thought of restoring a Jewish state -- which they did -- it was more in massianic terms, not realistic. Unfortunatly circumstances of the modern world also made it possible to kill millions of Jews, although obviously Zionism started prior to that under prior circumstances.
Posted by Micha @ 06/07/2006 12:26 AM CST
Roy Hudson is using the bible in reference to the creation of Israel. Why are there jewish scholars that are against the creation of the state of Israel? Why would jewish rabbis be against such a state. Micha, I am not talking politics because Roy is using religion. If the religion is so clear on the state of Israel, why are some jews against it????? Have the christians become more jews than jews?????
Posted by Mike Jebara @ 06/09/2006 11:30 AM CST
Mike, according to the Jewish religion the (religious) Jewish kingdom and temple will be rebuild when the Messiah will come.
The Zionists were secular Jews who decided not to wait for the Messiah, and built a secular state.
The religious Jews reacted to this in a veriaty of ways. From one extreme that viewed it as the first step for the return of the messiah, to the other extreme that viewed it as heresy. The settlers belong to the one extreme, while the Neture Carta who joined the PLO belong to the other.
There are Christian who support the state of Israel for a veriaty of secular reasons. There are Christians who support it because they are sympathetic to Jews or because they interpret the bible (which is important to Christians as much as to Jews) to be justfying the Jewish claim to Israel. Others view Israel as a stage in the second coming of Christ.
Among secular Jews there are also different attitudes toward Israel. But that is a different story.
Posted by Micha @ 06/09/2006 11:53 PM CST
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