Opinion |

Instead of Being Shocked by Settler Violence, Israel Must Separate From the Palestinians

Yair Golan
Yair Golan
Settlers throw stones at Palestinians near the settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank.
Settlers throw stones at Palestinians near the settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank.Credit: AP
Yair Golan
Yair Golan

So now we are all shocked by the settlers’ harsh violence against Palestinians and left-wing activists.

So now we are all shocked and even the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements has denounced the contemptible assailants.

So now we are all shocked, but tomorrow we will have forgotten. Not only will we forget the incident, but we will forget the reason for the incident – the unbearable friction between two hostile populations, in a country lacking borders, with a small messianic and violent minority that knows no limits, that strives for the annexation of millions of Palestinians into the State of Israel, while destroying the Zionist dream, undermining democracy and forcing the views of a violent minority on the sane majority.

This minority has been leading the majority for years. It settles wherever and whenever it wants, calls a “young settlement” something that is clearly illegal and works unceasingly to create facts on the ground – facts they think will preclude any separation from the Palestinians.

As prime ministers, David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon all understood that Israel’s existence as the national home of the Jewish people and a free and democratic nation depends crucially on the division of the land and separating the Israeli and Palestinian populations. Israel is about 20 percent Arab today – a substantial and significant minority that must be integrated fully and equally into the life of the country.

If we were to annex Judea and Samaria, Arabs will become 38 percent of Israel’s population. If we were to also annex Gaza, the figure would rise to 47 percent. This is what the messianic far right wants – an apartheid state in which Jews oppress the Arabs, make their lives miserable and encourage them to emigrate.

A bitter accounting in blood exists between us and the Palestinians, a total lack of trust and very little hope for a better future. Under the circumstances, the best thing we can do is to separate. Israel must set its borders immediately, create a barrier between the populations and allow the Palestinians to shape their own future.

In 2005, when I was the commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Judea and Samaria division, we began construction of a separation barrier around Gush Etzion, Ariel, Emmanuel and from Beit Aryeh toward Ariel. If this project had been completed, we would have today had a clear border and minimized the friction between the two populations.

Minimum friction does not bring immediate peace; it doesn’t guarantee of security. But it is a necessary condition for creating a pathway to separation, security and peace. It is reasonable to assume that the path to separation will have its ups and downs. But since when is the eternal people afraid to travel down a long road?

The area between Burin, Yitzhar and Givat Ronen has seen many incidents. There is not a single soldier who has served in the area who hasn’t witnessed the zealotry and violence of the settlers there, directed against soldiers and police officers as well as Palestinians. A civilized country must fight any group that does not accept its rule, even as it deals with the root causes of such violence.

The harshest, most bitter and most politically loaded root cause is the issue of control over the Palestinian population. This issue is behind most of the political violence in Israel, most of which comes from the ranks of the messianic extreme right. The time has come to decide: An Israel that preserves its Jewish and democratic identity is an Israel that acts vigorously to separate, so that our children will want to live here and sustain a free, democratic, progressive and prosperous country.

Yair Golan is the deputy economy and industry minister and a Knesset member for Meretz.

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