Greater Israel Means Much Greater Problems for the Jewish People

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The large Star of David that was mounted by settlers at Evyatar on Friday as they departed the outpost
The large Star of David mounted by settlers at Evyatar as they departed the outpost. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Hello, Israel Harel. We’ve known each other for many years, something I believe has contributed to both of us, not to mention the mutual esteem. But I think your July 2 op-ed in Haaretz, “The Settlement Project is No Burden,” is outrageous.

You rail against Central Command chief Tamir Yadai, who dared to say the Evyatar outpost is illegal, its very existence endangering Israel’s security because of the need for a military camp where the army doesn’t need one. Soldiers who could be battling terrorists will have to spend tedious hours guarding an empty outpost, whose existence could stoke a wave of violence in the territories.

But let’s begin with the main arguments. Mr. Harel, you think the entire Land of Israel is for the Jewish people only. But you know that another people lives in the Land of Israel, and even if you scorn them, condemn them and hate them, they’re still here, and we Zionist Jews will always face the fateful question: Where are we heading? Toward annexation or separation?

I understand your longing for every bit of soil in the Land of Israel; I even share it. I understand the sense of belonging and the love for the landscape, the history, the physical and spiritual heritage. But clinging to the whole land destroys the wholeness of the people.

The annexation of millions of Palestinians, even without Gaza, will bring the demographic balance between Jews and Arabs to about 60:40. How will Israel, the national home of the Jewish people, look with 40 percent of its inhabitants Arabs, more than half of them denied civil rights? How will Israel look with 2.6 million more Palestinians, most of them miserably poor in Israeli terms?

What will Israel gain by annexing millions of people seething with hatred for everything that looks, feels and sounds Israeli? Can’t you see that we still face the dilemma faced by David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon: annexation or separation?

Anyone who wants the wholeness of the people chooses separation. Anyone who desires a national home for the Jewish people – a state with a solid Jewish majority – chooses separation. Anyone who hopes someday to reconcile with the Palestinians in the spirit of our prophets’ vision of peace chooses separation. Anyone who aims to raise generations of young people in Israel not busy morning till night controlling a large and hostile civilian population chooses separation.

In your op-ed you scold the Central Command chief for daring to say that the outpost was established on privately-owned Palestinian land while its status hasn’t yet been clarified. (It’s defined as “survey land” in the professional jargon.) But establishing a community even on state land requires a cabinet decision and approval from the heads of the planning bodies. Can you imagine people setting up communities wherever they pleased with the only condition being ownership of the land? Clearly, this is total absurdity.

It’s strange that of all people, you, who for years have sought the full application of Israeli law in the West Bank, want communities established under rules that are blatantly illegal. Moreover, what kind of young people are we raising here? Ones who scorn the law – the same law that lets us all to live together? After all, it’s for good reason that Scripture links law with justice, innumerable times. The biblical author understood that without fear of the law, people will destroy each other.

Finally, you link settlement of the land and security as if they were the same, and they’re not. Israel's communities in Gaza didn’t improve its security but harmed it. More than 140 Israelis lost their lives from 2000 to 2005 in Gaza, and Qassam rockets have been launched into Gaza border communities since 2001. Since then, security for civilians has improved a lot, the casualty numbers have fallen considerably, and we’ve been able to do better work against Hamas, but none of this has to do with settling the land. (Does any sensible Israeli want to go back to settle in Gaza?)

The truth is, communities in areas without a high concentration of Arab residents could be a blessing, but those that create friction damage security. Anyone unconvinced can compare the secure communities in the Golan Heights with those in Hebron, with the huge friction and vast investment of security resources.

And one small thing in conclusion: Israel has always known how to cope with external threats – they unite us. Israel is being torn to pieces from within around the issue of annexation, the issue at the base of most of the political violence since 1967. Any true Zionist, anyone who wants the Jewish people to be whole – the absolute majority – supports separation.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yair Golan, a former deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, is a legislator for the Meretz party.

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