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It is generally accepted today that at this stage, the declared primary aim of Jewish settlement in the territories has already been achieved. As this was described by Hanoch Marmari in the heartfelt plea he published here two weeks ago (`You are sitting on the key,' Ha'aretz, June 14), it is the ideological settler who holds the key to our future. And indeed, if settlement is not ended once and for all by an unequivocal political decision and in the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement, Jewish settlement in the territories is a process that will continue until the last dunam of land in the West Bank is "redeemed," or until the last of the Arabs who refuses to accept the sentence of Jewish overlordship is thrown out. Thus, the war that has been imposed on us is an eternal war. Now, when settler leader Ze'ev Hever (Zambish) and his people have won allies like U.S. President George W. Bush and the Islamic terror people, each of whom in his own way and for his own reasons is positing unreasonable or insane conditions for ending the war, only the sky, in the West Bank, is the limit.

However, the greatest danger inherent in the settlement concept lies elsewhere. Instead of strengthening and glorifying Zionism, ultimately, settlement will erode to nothing but its moral basis. If it takes root, the settlement argument will end up justifying not only the old accusation by Zionism's greatest enemies, but will also undermine the security of the Israelis themselves in the context of the Jewish national movement.

The people who will cause this are those who say that any Jewish presence within the boundaries of the historic Land of Israel derives its right to existence from the same principle. If indeed there is no difference between the territories that were conquered by the end of the War of Independence and those that came into our hands in the Six-Day War, it is possible that Zionism really never was, as its opponents have always said, either national liberation movement or a movement to save Jews from physical and cultural extinction, but rather an imperialist movement that aims at constant expansion.

However, fortunately for us, the truth is otherwise. Zionism derived its legitimacy from being an answer to an existential danger that threatened the Jewish people during the first half of the 20th century. It was not a historical right, but rather the necessity to save life that was the moral basis for the conquest of the land. Therefore, the right of all people to ensure their existence by controlling their fate through establishing an independent political framework is what justified taking control of the territory that made it possible to establish the State of Israel. The land was not empty of people: The slogan "A land without a people for a people without a land" was nothing but a gimmick for purposes of internal conviction, for silencing the conscience and for maintaining good public relations. The bitter opposition over many years by the Arabs left no doubt in their consciousness as to the danger that threatens them.

Ultimately, after the Holocaust, which proved Zionism was justified, and with the end of the War of Independence, all the aims the Zionist movement had set for itself had been achieved. Therefore, there is an essential difference between our right to Petah Tikva and Ofakim and the theft of the hills in the West Bank from their owners. Anyone who denies this essential difference will end up casting the entire Jewish national movement, and not just the settlements of the last generation, in the light of a colonial movement. Kfar Giladi, Hanita and Merhavya had a crucial role in our national revival, whereas Beit El, Tappuah and Netzarim call into question not only the moral image of the State of Israel but also our very future.

Indeed, this fanatical nationalism, which is brutal not out of necessity but out of deliberate choice and rational decision, is already beginning to sprout noxious weeds that arouse disgust. I am referring to the settler mentality in its latest manifestation in the form of letters that students at schools in the territories wrote to fighters in Operation Defensive Shield. These children did not ask the soldiers to wipe out terror and strike at the terrorists, but "to kill as many Arabs as possible." One asked: "For me, kill at least 10"; another made an even simpler suggestion: "Ignore the laws and spray them."

What is interesting is not only these children's, and apparently their teachers', attitude toward human life, but rather the brief that was offered in their defense. Writing in the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth (May 5), Emunah Elon, a spokeswoman for the settlers, does not apologize and does not see these letters as "an educational failure." No one is going to catch her in any admission of having lost the way: She praises these manifestations as "healthy hatred" (no less!) and also sees the suggestion to ignore the laws of the state as a healthy, practical and mature approach. There were times when in Europe, too, inspired people like Emunah Elon thought that observing the rules of war, that is, maintaining humanity, was dangerous, superfluous and even indicative of weakness of character. To this pass we - the people that was itself the victim of the values that are being preached at the educational institutions in the settlements - have come because of the abysmal scorn for human rights and because of the blind belief in our absolute right to rule this entire land and its inhabitants. Even the barbaric Palestinian terror cannot justify such bestiality.