Opinion

No, Haaretz, Visiting Settlement Blocs Is Not a Surrender of Our Principles

Zionist Union members should bring their message with head held high, including in Ma'aleh Adumim, whether or not Haaretz likes it.

Construction in Ma'aleh Adumim
Gil Cohen Magen

The sound of clucking tongues arose from Haaretz after a tour of Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion by Zionist Union Knesset members, part of a project called “a day in a settlement.” We were accused by Ravit Hecht (May 19) of obsequiousness and of lacking principles, and were told that visits of this nature just accelerate Israel’s descent into disaster.

Hecht’s criticism attests mainly to the simplistic view that anyone who crosses the Green Line is trying to appease the settlement leaders and is thus betraying the cause. But contrary to Hecht’s assertions, we did not go to Ma’aleh Adumim to seek votes, but to express our positions clearly, even though the settler leadership wouldn't like them.

And whether we like it or not, hundreds of thousands of Israelis live over the Green Line. The good news is that most of them live in settlement blocs that take up only a small portion of the area of Judea and Samaria. Even the Palestinians understand that any future border won’t adhere exactly to the 1967 lines. There can be no agreement without these blocs.

What we did is go to Ma’aleh Adumim to tell its residents that while the blocs have to be part of Israel under any agreement, the Israelis living there are being held hostage by the more isolated settlements. We explained that insistence on every single settlement no matter how isolated, and the legalization of illegal outposts like Amona, ultimately undermine Ma’aleh Adumim. The way to persuade the world that the blocs are part of Israel is to advance the principle of two states for two peoples.

Over the last two years, thanks to the illusions of annexation that the government is cultivating, we are losing sight of this principle. Were it not for the Regularization Law, the United Nations wouldn’t have passed Resolution 2334, which sets the border at the 1967 lines and could be used against Israeli soldiers at The Hague. Yet the government, cynically, knowing the price, passed this legislation. Any new annexation laws will have a similar effect.

For the skeptics’ information, that’s what really happened during the visit to Ma’aleh Adumim. I said that we would do what we could to make sure that it would be included in an agreement, but that we would not support any annexation bills. In Gush Etzion, I spelled out that we would not let people aspiring to establish a single binational state to take advantage of the time and create facts on the ground that would prevent a future agreement. At the Har Etzion Yeshiva, we held a respectful if sometimes difficult discussion about Judaism, humanism and democracy.

Reading Hecht's op-ed, I immediately grasped the common denominator between the two groups, though separated as they are by a wide ideological gap: they are both unwilling to distinguish between the settlement blocs and the isolated settlements. But the criticism leveled against us had nothing to do with the blocs. I assume that Hecht supports the human rights organizations that operate over the Green Line, which she trusts to stand up for themselves, and it seems to me that Haaretz would also want to be read in Ma’aleh Adumim. But when it comes to politicians, even those who support an agreement, the assumption is that if they cross the Green Line and meet with settlers, the meeting will end with groveling and a rebirth in religion.

But that is not so. I am prepared to go anywhere, not just to settlement blocs, and speak my piece, with my head held high. I have enough confidence in my position to present it directly to anyone, even to the settlers. Anybody afraid to do this will also be afraid to make the tough decisions we still face.