The First Step: Confronting the Settlements

The famous idiom from Abba Eban, that the “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” has often been turned back on Israel. Yet it is no truer in any arena than it is with regard to the diffuse Israel-Palestine “peace movement.” It is happening again right now, and one of the best chances to turn the tide, not to mention one of, if not THE last chance to save the two-state solution is once again being missed.

It’s a presidential election year in the US and the Israeli Prime Minister is bracing for the release of a report which could stand a chance of bringing down his government. And what, in these days, are President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert saying?

Bush is saying that settlement outposts “ought to go.” Olmert said the presence of those outposts is a “disgrace.” Were these empty words? Absolutely. Bush even said that Israel needs to end its occupation of the Palestinians and Olmert is fighting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the removal of some few settler outposts. Is this mere political posturing? You bet it is.A settler and a soldier

But the words are still sign of the times. Right-wing Israelis, fearful of both a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank as well as some arrangement to share Jerusalem, called a rally to protest Bush’s visit to Israel. But they were unable to bring large numbers of people to the demonstration. Israel is battling the (correct) perception that it has not undertaken the tasks it has agreed to in the past. Removing outposts, sharing Jerusalem, even removing established settlements are part of the political discourse in a way they have not been in the past.

What would it take to at least start turning these words into actions? The answer is the same as always: political pressure. And that, both in the US and in Israel, is sorely lacking. Continue reading