For the Settlers in the West Bank, It Will Never Be Enough

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A January 21, 2020 photo shows then Defense Minister Naftali Bennett being shown construction plans in the West Bank.
A January 21, 2020 photo shows then Defense Minister Naftali Bennett being shown construction plans in the West Bank.Credit: Defense Ministry / Ariel Hermoni
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The settlers aren’t happy. People say that they’re even aggrieved. Their meeting with the prime minister on Tuesday was described as “very emotional.” How heartrending.

How could he do this to them? Haven’t they suffered enough? The annexation plan isn’t good enough for them. Nineteen settlements may be left out. Out of what? Out of the land that is totally theirs. Out of the Jewish people’s state. And what will be with their idealistic residents? Where will they go? A national disaster is looming and one’s heart is shattered.

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Benjamin Netanyahu did the right thing by hastening to agree to the urgent meeting, and also promised that annexation would not be linked to the Trump plan; as for a Palestinian state, there’s of course nothing to talk about. Still, they are aggrieved. It is pretty justified, if not totally justified. Only the hardhearted can’t empathize. There is no prime minister that hasn’t held urgent meetings with them. There’s no other sector of society that’s so consistently had the ear of the prime minister, every prime minister. They are the terror of Balfour Street for generations.

There is no other powerful group for whom all the corridors of power are so open. What’s unemployment, poverty, violence, racism, a pandemic, overcrowded hospitals, housing or education compared to the grievances about an insufficient annexation? Few prime ministers, and certainly not Netanyahu, would have considered receiving a delegation of those who oppose the settlements. Perhaps they, too, are aggrieved? Perhaps their grievances are also urgent? Perhaps the dangers they will point out are a lot more serious than the fate of the Esh Kodesh outpost?

An iconic photo taken last week tells the whole story: A group of tough men are sitting in a circle, some of them in sandals, some in boots, most of them wearing kippas, one in a jacket. The mafia in action, the gangsters discussing the stolen loot. They are eyeing a map that is spread out on the wooden floor in front of them. Most of the areas on it are colored pink. That’s the occupation map. “Colonialism 2020,” someone tweeted, the settler leaders discussing annexation.

Their future never looked so rosy, just like the lands on the map, but they are resentful. That’s how they always are. The robbed Cossack that’s never satisfied. That’s the occupation lust and real estate greed that can never get enough, along with their constant cynical manipulation, their resentment. For all their manipulations, they still complain. For 50 years they’ve been complaining about all Israeli governments, blackmailing all of them nearly equally. The resentment works for them; few prime ministers could resist yielding to it. Now it’s Netanyahu’s turn.

That photo was also a picture of pure apartheid. The white ranchers divvying up the skin of the bear they’ve hunted that doesn’t belong to them. Most of the residents of those rose-colored lands will never be asked what they think, but Israeli propaganda won’t call that apartheid. Is there more proof than that picture that apartheid has won? Where are the Palestinians? Aren’t they human beings?

The heads of the biggest and strongest crime organization in the country are sitting there, discussing the fate of their loot. In yet another manipulation, they divide themselves into “moderates” and “extremists” as if there is any difference between them, exactly the way we distinguish between “legal” and “illegal” settlements, as if there’s any difference between them, as if all of them aren’t criminal, Israel’s greatest blight.

The “good ones,” those who out of the goodness of their hearts would agree to Trump’s version of annexation, weren’t invited to the meeting with Netanyahu. Now’s the time to placate the extremists, who aren’t happy with this version. When the West Bank is annexed in its totality and its residents are expelled to who-knows-where, they will lust after the other bank of the Jordan and express resentment. When the East Bank is annexed, they will demand the land of Bashan; they will summon the prime minister to an urgent meeting and file their grievances. They’ll be aggrieved even when their country reaches from the Nile to the Euphrates.

One can’t complain about them. Like any crime organization, the problem is with those who facilitate its existence. And that’s all Israelis, all of us.

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