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settler politics revealed

Reader comment on item: Gaza cease-fire

Submitted by paul murphy (Ireland), Dec 2, 2006 at 12:43

Last Thursday night, 'Newsnight' , BBC 2' s political-analysis programme hosted a live debate on the future of the peace-process in the light of the cease-fire.

The Israeli side was represented by a junior minister in the Olmert government and a former chief of the Israeli intelligence service. The Palestinians were represented by a Fatah spokeswoman. Outside comment came from the EU negotiator of the Lebanon cease-fire and a representative of the West-Bank settlers.

By and large the debate was hopeful and reasonable. The mainstream representatives all agreed that the solution must lie in two independent and viable states for the Israelis and Palestinians with borders roughly following the 1967 ceasefire line. The disagreement was as to timing. As usual, the Israelis claimed that they needed to have a stable negotiating partner and the Palestinians were saying that the occupation was of itself creating the instability which the Israelis were using as an excuse for refusing to negotiate. Both sides recognized the rights of the other to exist. However, moderator, Gavin Esler, drew a blank when he asked the Israelis why should recognition of Isreal by Hamas be a precondition of settlement talks when a significant number of Israeli politicians equally refuse to recognize reciprocal national rights for the Palestinians.

The wild card in the debate was the settler representative. Over the course of the debate (and much to the visible discomfiture of the mainstream Israelis) it became obvious that this man wanted to remove all the Palestinians from what he called 'Smaria' and dump them in Jordan or Egypt. He became evasive when challenged as to how he might go about removing more than a million men women and children from their homes and farms. He seemed to suggest that if their infrastructure were destroyed, their water diverted and their schools closed down they might be prepared to go 'willingly'. His (increasingly shrill and fundamentalist) position was an eye-opener for the 5 million or so Brits who watch this programme.

And therein lies the crux. There is no question that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis would enter final settlement talks in the morning. The problem lies on the Israeli side. The Israelis are afraid that their fundamentally divided society might descend into civil war if it attempted to remove the fundamentalist settlers from the West Bank. They are also unprepared to accept the fair and proportional re-allocation of the water resources of the West Bank which a settlement would inevitably entail.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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