Israeli Settlements in the West Bank: A Deal Breaker?

Demographics

The Security Council of the United Nations recently (2016) Adopted a resolution 2334 stating that Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have no validity in international law and is a major obstacle to the establishment of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders.

The Council also demand that they immediately and completely cease all Israeli Settlements activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, it underlined that it would not recognise any changes to the 4 June 1967 borders, other than those agreed by the two sides through negotiations.

The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank currently stands at 474,000 of a total population of 4,500,000 constituting approximately 14% of the total population. The number of Palestinian Arabs living in Israel proper is 1,800,000 of a total population of 8,000,000 constituting approximately 22% of the country’s total population.

Let us for the time being imagine that peace has “broken out” between Palestine and Israel and a peace treaty has been signed with full normalization of relations.
In this hypothetical scenario, you would end up with the following statistics:

PALESTINE: a Muslim/ Arab state with a 14% Jewish population &
ISRAEL: a Jewish state with a 22% Arab/Muslim population.

The Palestinian population will continue to grow more rapidly than the Israeli population (33 percent higher than Israel’s current rate of population growth) because of higher fertility rates among Palestinian women, 4.5 children per woman
Whereas the Israeli population is expected to increase by about 40 percent by 2035, the Palestinian population is projected to increase by over 60 percent. If the West Bank were to be incorporated into Israel, the Jewish proportion overall would be a declining majority, 57 percent in 2014 to 53 percent in 2035 to under 49% by 2050. *
Source
Ralph Bunche Institute, CUNY Graduate Centre

History and Psychology

We can see from the above that notwithstanding the rapid increase in settlement activity in the West Bank, globally speaking, the net beneficiary of present day demographics would in the long run still be the Palestinians.
Israeli is opposed to the return the West Bank to the Palestinians for several reasons.
The first, which is often glossed over and rarely admitted is the “real estate” factor. (Israel proper is only 8,367 square miles which fits into Texas 31 times and into California 18 times!)
The second often quoted reason is the religious historical connection based on the biblical assertion that God promised the land of Judea and Samaria to the patriarch Abraham. This is the reason given by the Israeli right wing to hold on to the West Bank.
The third and the most important reason is the matter of security. Israel asserts that unilaterally returning the West Bank to the Palestinians would seriously endanger its own security. It cites the example of Gaza which it unilaterally returned to the Palestinians in 1994 without a peace treaty resulting in a takeover of the strip by the terrorist organization Hamas, whose leader is a protégé of the state of Qatar. Hamas then went on to use the country as a launching pad for missiles, terrorist raids and suicide bombers against Israeli citizens.
The question of vulnerability of Israel is an understandable concern of survival. The breach of this psychological barrier is a prerequisite to any future Israeli concession to the Palestinians. Since the Gaza debacle the Israelis are not prepared to take any further risks. This “freeing of the psyche” will inevitably remove all obstacles in the way of setting up a framework of a mutually recognized two state solution resulting in the cessation of territory acquisition by Israel.
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The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, uses the settlements as the main reason for their refusal to enter negotiations with Israel It is worth bearing in mind that ultimately the Palestinian leadership is not master of its own destiny. The financiers and supporters of Hamas and other extremist organizations in the region, mostly Qatar & Saudi Arabia (the Godfathers of Terror and Extremism) and other Gulf states have no interest in peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They are the puppet masters of the invisible game of control. They are content with the status quo. Peace in the region will unleash many problems for these states including possibly the questioning of their very own legitimacy. That is why Qatar’s propaganda mouthpiece Aljazeera Arabic never ceases to fan the flames of conflict and hatred between Palestinians and Israelis.
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The creeping colonization of the West bank by Israel will continue if there is no peace between the parties. To the Israelis this as a form of demographic defence. There is very little that anyone can do to stop this other than the usual protestations and the occasional UN resolution. Add to this, the new US administration of Donald Trump appears to be more responsive and sympathetic to Israeli demands.

Hope or Despair?

As neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are willing or able to move forward by themselves, there is only one way to break this deadlock: a Sadat-style unconditional recognition of the State of Israel by all Arab/Islamic states. This will remove the major Israeli objection to returning the West bank to the Palestinians. Only such a momentous act will force the Palestinian leadership to settle with the Israelis and remove the underlying anxiety of the Israelis which is at the root of all their dealings with the Arabs. As one eminent Israeli professor put it to me recently “We have learnt our lessons; we will not accept anything less”

Now that most Arab states particularly the influential Gulf states share a common enemy with Israel namely Iran the collective recognition of Israel should, in theory, be less problematic. Acceptance of Israel’s right to exit will render the issue of settlements peripheral and resolvable and who knows, in an economically integrated Palestine-Israel, the West Bankers might even find it advantageous to invite the settlers to stay on in the West Bank!

Is this a realistic scenario? Is a full Arab recognition of Israel likely to happen anytime soon?

As we are now in the midst of a dark age of Islamic Salafism brought about by these very same Arab states, notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who happen to be the sponsors and financiers of the major Sunni/Salafist terrorist organizations in the region, the foreseeable outlook appears gloomy. The very legitimacy of the Saudi royal family will be in great danger if they inflame the anti -Semite , anti-Western  Wahhabi sect that underwrites this ruling dynasty’s political legitimacy.

Consequently, more Israeli Settlements will be built resulting in more futile complaints by the Palestinians. The status quo will prevail.

Michael Nimier

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