Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Guest Post: Israeli Settlements Are An Obstacle...

"I am a Jew who loves Israel. Allow me to clarify in case you find the title misleading. “Israeli settlements are an obstacle”. An obstacle to terrorism, that is.

Let’s start with some major events that occurred in the Middle East in recent years. Mahmoud Abbas has just announced his resignation in protest to his perceived lack of American support in halting Israeli settlement construction. This follows on closely from a press conference between Hilary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu where Clinton publicly acknowledged Netanyahu’s willingness to offer a partial settlement freeze which no Israeli government since the signing of the Oslo accords has ever had to consider as a precondition to peace talks. Not only did the left wing labour government of Rabin who signed at Oslo not offer a settlement freeze, they kept building!

Anyway, the current hot topics are the push for a complete settlement freeze and the Goldstone report which accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes. There was Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008 and prior to that, the second Lebanon War, Ariel Sharon’s coma and perhaps most significant, the unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Now follow this closely. Taking recent years events into context the Israeli settlements that were considered an obstacle to peace in fact played a significant part in preventing more widescale violence.

Gush Katif, Netzarim and the other Israeli settlements in Gaza were protected by IDF soldiers permanently stationed there. During this period, there were murderous terrorist attacks on the Jewish communities but let’s look at the difference between then and now. Then, the IDF based in Gaza would carry our counter-terror operations which prevented the mass build up of weapons which Hamas have now acquired since the disengagement.

Israel left Gaza. Then came a spate of terrorist attacks and a huge increase in rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli Southern belt communities. Eventually, after eight years of terrorist attacks and 10,000 rockets whose frequency increased to 2,500 (a quarter of the total rockets fired since 2001) which hit southern Israel in only three years! And this led to Cast Lead in January 2009 which wreaked havoc and destruction in Gaza.

There is always the question of what if. Ariel Sharon thought that if he withdrew from Gaza then the International community would support him on other matters. Instead it culminated in operation Cast Lead and a huge drop in support and more criticism for Israel in the international arena.

But what if Israel had not disengaged? Cast Lead may have never needed to happen or at least on the scale that it did.

There is talk about Israel leaving the Golan Heights and the West Bank unilaterally. But right now we have a tense calm in these areas and the Gaza withdrawal has provided an obvious precedent should a unilateral Israeli withdrawal be considered again.

Sad to say but it will. I just hope that the Israeli government have learnt from past mistakes."

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