The Strategy for Erasing the 1967 Line

Nouveau settlers know they need to convince other Israelis that the line is purely imaginary, not an actual border, and gradually they’ll cross it.

A portion of the West Bank separation barrier.
A portion of the West Bank separation barrier.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

“Too many people write about the settlement movement without understanding its dimension of possibility,” wrote Yoaz Hendel in his new Hebrew-language book, “Be’eretz Lo Zerua.” “My parents crossed the Green Line on their own ... because it was possible.”

And then he explained: “Israel is small. The center, Gush Dan, is crowded and expensive. The moment the Alignment government, and afterward the Likud government, made it possible to build beyond the Green Line, a natural process of ‘demand versus supply’ began. Sometimes ideology spurred the move, and sometimes, the ideology developed only afterward.”

But something is impeding this natural process of supply and demand: Construction freezes in the settlements reduce supply, while the political and ideological distinction created by the Green Line reduces demand. This is the root of the fraternal alliance forged by Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid in the 2013 election. Habayit Hayehudi’s ideological assets don’t have a big enough electorate, while Yesh Atid’s electorate doesn’t have enough real estate. To borrow Hendel’s terminology, we could say that Bennett seeks to teach Lapid the settlement movement’s dimension of possibility. To get him to “cross the Green Line” – that is, to erase it – without any need to embrace a nationalist or religious ideology. To get the Israeli political center to expand the purchasing power in the settlements, which, “naturally,” will create an upsurge of construction that will translate back into an ideological achievement for the settlement movement.

How can this be done? The same way the Hendel family did it: “Amid the morning fog, we crossed the line that separates what was conquered during the War of Independence from what was conquered during the Six-Day War.” If nouveau settlers like Hendel and Bennett have any single purpose, it’s exactly that: to help Yesh Atid’s electorate cross the Green Line, to convince it that this line is purely imaginary, not an actual border.

Who knows as well as Bennett that it’s possible to be a settler without living over the Green Line? And in the same way, it’s possible to live over the Green Line without being a settler.

In their refusal to distinguish between 1948 and 1967, the nouveau settlers apply the following logic: There’s no difference from the standpoint of legitimacy between what was conquered in each of those two wars; anyone who accepts the legitimacy of Israeli sovereignty over the territory captured in 1948 must accept the legitimacy of an Israeli annexation of the territory captured in 1967.

Lapid is seeking cheap real estate for his electorate. After all, he’s the leader who emerged from the social justice protests of 2011. And during a visit to the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim four weeks ago, he discussed the construction freeze.

“What would I do tomorrow with the U.S. president?” he asked. “I’d tell him, ‘Listen, we’re going to officially freeze construction outside the [settlement] blocs, but I want to build like a madman within the blocs ... The reason they aren’t building here today is that the Israeli government doesn’t want to say, ‘I’m freezing there and building here.’” Ma’aleh Adumim, Lapid explained, is paying the price for the fact that Israel refuses to distinguish between the settlement blocs and the settlements outside the blocs.

But what’s the meaning of Lapid’s statement that Ma’aleh Adumim is in the heart of the Israeli consensus and will remain part of the State of Israel under any future agreement? Bennett explained it to Lapid: “No campaign will help as long as you run around the world saying ‘We need to divide the land.’” In other words, it’s impossible to talk only about building without also talking about annexation; without Israeli sovereignty, what will ensure the value of the property?

Bennett opened his faction’s weekly meeting by saying, “The time has come to apply [Israeli] law to Ma’aleh Adumim, the Etzion bloc and the Ariel bloc first.” That’s exactly what the “natural process” looks like: Occupy, settle, build and annex.

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