The settlers of Judea and Samaria should ask themselves why the settlements are not being taken off the agenda. It's hard to find an issue that unites the entire world more than opposition to the settlements.
It is impossible to explain the opposition away with the timeworn excuses of anti-Semitism and "the whole world is against us."
Even dyed-in-the-wool friends of Israel - and there are quite a few of those - share the vehement, almost obsessive opposition to the settlements, not to mention large parts of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad. Their opposition cannot be dismissed with the stale excuse of "self hatred" either.
The question is what is the source of this intense opposition. After all, the prime minister is correct in saying that the settlements are not the reason for the conflict, but a result of it.
After all, anyone with eyes in their head who is objective and not tainted with hatred of Israel is aware of the fact that the settlement enterprise in the West Bank did not create the conflict and is very far from being the primary reason for its continuation.
The settlement project is a direct result of the Six-Day War, which everyone agrees was a justified and heroic war of defense that was forced on Israel. And as far as a future agreement is concerned, Israel has already proven twice that when it wants to, it knows how to evacuate entire settlement blocs. Does the future of the Middle East really depend on another house in Eli or another neighborhood in Shilo?
And still, opposition to the settlements is sweeping and the pressure on Israel to stop them will only increase. If the news to the effect that the prime minister is about to agree to a temporary freeze of the settlements is true, that is because he has become convinced that at present there is nothing more damaging to Israel, its international standing and its diplomatic goals than the settlements.
As to why that is the situation, the answer is that this deep-seated opposition is not aimed at the settlement enterprise itself.
The opposition to the settlements is a direct result of the anarchy, the culture of winking and deception and the atmosphere of lawlessness that have all prevailed for decades in the West Bank.
Even if this behavior is limited to a small minority, it is the reason the West Bank is seen all over the world as the Wild West, as a place where there is no rule of law, where might makes right and the Palestinian residents live in a reality of harassment, scare tactics and land-theft; a situation in which small groups of extremists do whatever they please and nobody opens their mouth to object.
The State of Israel is seen as being unable or unwilling to impose its authority on these extremists. The outposts and those who establish them, with their boastful, defiant and infuriating style, do not represent the settlers of the West Bank. But in the eyes of the world they are the face and the image of the settlement enterprise and they are damaging its good name all over the world.
Even a thousand public relations experts will not be able to repair that.
The real danger to this important enterprise and the main threat to its future is not Peace Now nor any other left-wing organization, but rather the far right in the guise of Women in Green or the hilltop youth and their ilk.
Israel's unwillingness to restrain them, and the unwillingness of the settlements to vomit them out, fuel the fire of opposition to the whole ideal.
The Israeli government must announce a one-year freeze on the settlements outside Jerusalem, and during this period must impose order in the West Bank once and for all. This is vital for the settlement movement.
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