Opinion |

Let's Admit It, the Settlers Have Won and We've Lost

Removing 33 'isolated' settlements wouldn't allow for a viable two-state solution, despite what a Haaretz colleague of mine argues

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Houses in Ofra settlement. "No map can overcome historical truth: Most of the Palestinian people’s land was taken from them in 1948."
Houses in Ofra settlement. "No map can overcome historical truth: Most of the Palestinian people’s land was taken from them in 1948."Credit: THOMAS COEX / AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Ori Mark, the new editor of Haaretz’s Hebrew-language weekend magazine, is sure that the land can still be divided. In fact, it’s easy: Remove 9,800 families and the land is divided. Only 33 “isolated” settlements stand between the apartheid state or the binational democracy of the prophets of falsehood and destruction, A.B. Yehoshua and this writer, and the just solution of two states for two peoples, the vision of so many good people.

To read Mark’s article, which appeared in English as well over the weekend, it seems as if peace and justice are still right around the corner. Here comes the Palestinian state, reach out and touch it, just one small evacuation and we’re there. And we haven’t yet mentioned its tiny area, restricted rights, demilitarization and lack of sustainability.

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Mark’s optimism is enviable. Only the despondent and the grumpy wouldn’t get caught up in it. In his favor it should be said that he’s taking small steps. His mini-evacuation promises only a mini-agreement. The drawing of a border for a limited period. And what about afterward? Only God knows. Even if he tarries, the Messiah will yet come.

Many in Israel and the rest of the world are still spreading this sweet illusion of dividing the land, an illusion that’s the most dangerous of all. Thanks to this fantasy, the occupation can be perpetuated. As long as a division of the land awaits, the occupation can continue.

Oslo Accords - 25 years on

Under this thinking, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s years in office haven’t locked the door on a solution. The Zionist left and the European Union are selling this illusion, and the Palestinian Authority continues to hold fast to it – without it, it has no hope. Even Donald Trump mumbled something about two states. It’s convenient for everyone. Fifty years of occupation thanks to 50 years of illusion. We can go for another 50.

The map doesn’t lie. Removing 33 disruptive settlements would indeed allow for Palestinian territorial contiguity. There’s a state. True, a Palestinian who travels to Bethlehem and Ramallah would have to go through the Dead Sea, but who’s counting. There’s contiguity.

Maybe one day the Israeli statesman will be found who can evacuate 46,000 settlers, but it’s doubtful. And maybe a Palestinian leader will be found to sign an agreement in exchange. That would be Oslo II or III, Illusion II or III; justice would not be done. Not even a little. And so the end of Illusion III will be the same as that of Oslo I.

No map can overcome historical truth: Most of the Palestinian people’s land was taken from them in 1948. In 1967, the 22 percent that remained was robbed. And now they must compromise over that too, for the benefit of those who expelled them. Since 1948 the Palestinian people have been living under Israeli occupation or as refugees and in exile.

Until Israel takes responsibility for this and changes its attitude to the Palestinians and their rights, which hasn’t changed since 1948, no agreement will hold water. The removal of a few settlements will allow for a few more years of denial of reality, but the reality won’t let go and Israel will not be absolved.

Mark’s map obscures the truth. Netanyahu’s old refrigerator might freeze almost everything and make a lot of noise, as Mark puts it, but his years in power have distanced Israel even from the map of illusion.

The map doesn’t show the flood of nationalist legislation intended to legitimize annexation without granting citizenship, the apartheid state on the way. The map doesn’t show the spirit of the times, which has declined to the extremes of racism, a thirst for blood and a loss of recognition of the Palestinians as human beings. The map shows 33 settlements and hides Israel.

As luck would have it, reality peaks through in the pages that follow the hope offered by Mark. “What do they mean by sovereignty?” Carolina Landsmann asked in her piece on the issue, and presented the true spirit of the times. The education minister promises that the Palestinians will be able to travel by car, the Jerusalem affairs minister says the occupied territories belong to the Jewish people, the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies sends them to Indonesia and the Middle East affairs expert suggests they establish seven emirates for themselves.

That’s where we’re going, step by giant step. The settlers have won, we’ve lost. Let’s at least admit it, Ori, and not illusion ourselves to death.

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