Labor's Acquiescence

If the Labor Party cannot put a stop to the dynamic now - a dynamic which that party started in 1967 and did not halt even under the governments of Rabin, Peres and Barak in the '90s - at least don't throw false promises in the public's face like so much sand.

The Labor Party is negotiating with the Likud on joining the coalition, backed by the support of many Israelis for the disengagement plan. Supporters explain their backing for Labor's joining the coalition by saying it is an "important precedent" to evacuate settlements, and it means the "creation of a dynamic" for the evacuation of other settlements in the West Bank, especially in light of the widely publicized fact that for Sharon, it's "Gaza and Jenin first, Gaza and Jenin last."

The question of Labor's joining the coalition is a matter between its voters and its elected representatives. Let Labor's voters test the extent of the commitment to peace behind the desire to join the government. On the other hand, the promise of a positive dynamic are of interest to all Israelis who still hope for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian conflict, based on the establishment of a real Palestinian state, not a "state" in name only, which is no more than a cluster of disjointed enclaves.

While the media waves are foaming around the coalition talks, on the ground the dynamic of proud Zionist construction goes on, as Israeli bulldozers work tirelessly throughout the West Bank: opposite the village of Hizmeh, south of Pisgat Ze'ev, in the settlement of Betar, at the Za'atra (Tapuah) junction south of Nablus, on the hills west of the settlement of Givat Ze'ev, on the Uzon road and in the northern Jordan Valley near the village of Bardala.

In one place it's because of the separation fence, in another it's to expand a settlement that is "in the consensus." In yet another it is to build another detour road or to expand one, or for a road to some fresh new outpost. Everything is for the public benefit; that is, for the benefit of the Jewish public. It is being done for its security, and so that the settler population can increase, because the distance from Israel and from one settlement to another is getting shorter. It is all being carried out at the expense of Palestinian lands, either private or public, cultivated or those that could be cultivated and lived on. Everything here is at the expense of the territorial contiguity of the Palestinian state and against the logic of a peaceful solution.

Southeast of Bethlehem, a road system is energetically being created that will connect the eastern Gush Etzion settlements with the settlement on Har Homa. This road system cuts through the rolling hills on which many of the communities of the large Ta'amreh Bedouin tribe are located. About six years ago, six of these small communities united under one municipality called Jannata, with 6,000 residents. For years it has been difficult or impossible for them to reach their pastures or fields beyond the settlements of Tekoa, Nokdim, and El-David. Their schools are west of their municipal area, and one detour road already cuts the area and blocks direct access on foot. Soon, the paving of another detour road nearby will be completed. They are now trying to organize busing on a regular basis, but it would need to be subsidized, and the parents can't afford the extra expense.

About a month ago, the Jannata municipality began to upgrade its existing water system, replacing the old pipes. A contractor's tractor was working on land belonging to the municipality but in the part known as "Area C," that is, under Israel's security and administrative control. The municipality believed that replacing the pipes would not require authorization, but it turns out that it does. An Israel Defense Forces jeep came by and said it was not allowed.

They will now complete 80 percent of the work, the part that is in Area B - Palestinian administrative authority - and will simultaneously request authorization from the Israeli Civil Administration in the hope that it will not oppose the request or use the system of delaying tactics.

When the stage after the evacuation of settlements from the Gaza Strip arrives, the settlement dynamic in the West Bank will have pulled together even more the contiguity of wide green suburbs connected to Israel through high-class roads. The so-called Palestinian state will have to manage in the holes left behind.

There is no chance that the members and the elected officials of the Labor Party will be able to pay off the debt to which they obligated themselves, which pledges "a dynamic of settlement evacuation" when the time comes, after 2005. Because meanwhile, the establishment of settlements will have continued to shape the worldview of tens of thousands of Israelis who can find quality of life in the settlements that they would never be able to find on the other side of the Green Line.

This dynamic is an act, planned and directed, of the government of Israel, and which impacts ever-widening circles of Israelis. In addition to those directly enjoying real estate benefits and their families, thousands of other Israelis are connected to the development of this contiguity; architects, engineers, builders, lawyers, contractors, clerks in building companies and cement factories, Electric Company and Mekorot water company personnel, soldiers, officers, Shin Bet operatives, shooting range instructors, philosophy teachers.

So if the Labor Party cannot put a stop to the dynamic now - a dynamic which that party started in 1967 and did not halt even under the governments of Rabin, Peres and Barak in the '90s - at least don't throw false promises in the public's face like so much sand.