Opinion |

No One Is More Deserving of Israel's Highest Honor Than Its Colonialist Settler Leaders

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
A general view of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the West Bank.
A general view of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the West Bank.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

This year’s Israel Prize for lifetime achievement for a special contribution to society has been orphaned: Yehuda Meshi-Zahav is not getting the prize after all. The attempt to give a prize for a life’s work for a project that’s all about death – the necrophilic Zaka organization – did not succeed. Now another winner must be found.

The time has come to give the prize to a truly deserving candidate, someone who contributed to society and the country more than anyone else, until it completely changed the country’s face and border and character, even its regime. The time has come to award the prize to the Yesha Council of settlements. No one is more deserving.

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Several representatives of this enterprise have already won the prize, like the champion of dispossessing Palestinians in Jerusalem, Elad director David Be’eri. But that was just small-scale recognition that didn’t take the full picture into account. Granting the prize to the Yesha Council, or its forerunner, Gush Emunim, or one of its leaders, Ze’ev Hever (Zambish), Daniella Weiss or Israel Harel, whomever, would faithfully reflect the spirit of the times, and especially the momentous contribution to society that the prize is meant to acknowledge.

It’s time for every Zionist to show appreciation for the settlers. They are the biggest Zionist success story in Israel’s history. Today there is no Zionism without settlements, and the settlements are the clearest example of Zionism’s colonialist nature.

These words are not being written as a provocation. If not for the settlements, we’d have a different Israel today. In territory and character. This must be acknowledged. We should admit right up front that the settlers won a long time ago. Their colonialism, contrary to most other colonialist movements in history, is irreversible. Just try to imagine Israel without the settlements. It would be a different country. Smaller, safer and much more just. No Hague, no apartheid.

The occupation of the West Bank may still have lasted for a while, due to “security considerations,” but it would have been much easier to end it. One of the endless peace processes would have led by now to the big withdrawal after an Israeli prime minister mustered the courage for it, and an actual Palestinian state would have arisen on all the territory, the state the Palestinians deserve. The settlers succeeded big-time, and now it’s time to celebrate their victory.

Israel without settlements would have been a different society. The army wouldn’t have been up to its ears in missions primarily meant to protect the settlers, and different generations of young people would have grown up here, ones that never had to enter people’s bedrooms in the middle of the night with rifles and dogs to abduct the residents without trial, who never had to man checkpoints and chase after children. They wouldn’t have become addicted to violence and force, or to the idea that for them, anything goes. The occupation isn’t the only cause of Israeli violence, nationalism, arrogance and aggression, but it has a major influence.

Imagine if Israel had planted settlements in south Lebanon – we would have stayed there forever too. Then we would have had an even bigger and more colonialist, more apartheid-ist Israel. We came that close to seeing settlements established between Tyre and Sidon, just as they were between Sharm al-Sheikh and Taba, and between Gaza and Rafah. Why shouldn’t Jews settle in the north of the Land of Canaan? Hiram, king of Tyre, supplied cedars for the Holy Temple and Ahab, king of Israel, wed Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon – that isn’t the land of the Bible? Isn’t that all ours? Don’t we deserve to have it? We came that close.

But what was missed out on in southern Lebanon and evacuated in Egyptian Sinai and Palestinian Gaza, will remain forever in Judea and Binyamin. There are already more than 700,000 guarantees of it. True, all of Israel, right and left, succumbed to pressure, intimidation and blackmail, but did so willingly. Deep down, everyone here knew: The settlers are the perpetuators of the oppressive colonialist campaign that has never stopped. What began in Hanita, we’ll continue in Susya. This is deserving of the Israel Prize.



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