Thursday, October 17, 2002

The always maddening UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen wrote an op-ed in Today's Haaretz. Here's a partial fisking:

To understand this better, consider two competing views found on both sides of the conflict - the constructionist and the destructionist. In simple terms, the constructionists believe in a two-state solution and the destructionists do not.

Israeli and Palestinian constructionists have similar outlooks. They say the best way to foster peace, security and prosperity for both sides is through the creation of a democratic Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This state would work for the benefit of its people, and in the process control and stop violence against Israel. In this scenario, both sides win.

Israeli and Palestinian destructionists both seek total control of the land at the expense of their adversaries, and are in a kind of unholy embrace that is fueling today's downward spiral. For them, only one state can emerge west of the Jordan River: Israel or Palestine. It is a zero-sum game.

So Larsen's sees (or claims to see) two distinct groups of people: the "constructionists" and the "destructionists". Of course he then sides with the "constructionists". This is a nice, neat, view of the situation (and the basis of his whole argument). Do Europeans really see things that way?

In reality most Israelis today are - using Larsen's terms - "constructionists who realized, post-Camp David, that there's no partner for construction on the Palestinian side".

If Larsen has the opportunity to express himself in an Israeli paper, he should at least spend a few lines to try to convince Israelis that peace along the 1967 borders is possible - after all, not even the Palestinian Authority will say so.

The fourth trend is perhaps the most significant of all: Israel's continued expansion of West Bank settlements, and the land confiscation that goes with it. Even as the world repeatedly calls for a freeze to all such activity, it continues apace. The settlements, and the highways that serve them, could soon envelop East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank, which would then also be split in half. Other settlement projects will bisect the northern West Bank and encircle Bethlehem and Hebron to the south.

Larsen's alarming description conjures images of vast gov't-sponsored building projects surrounding and isolating Palestinian enclaves and snapping up all the land. On the ground however, we have settlers stealthily setting groups of mobile homes on hilltops. Yesterday the IDF cleared one "illegal outpost" called Havat Gilad which consisted of scattered mobile homes; and another one called "Nofei Nehemia" which consisted of 6 families.

Netanyahu started building Har Homa (which Israelis regard as part of Jerusalem) because Bethlehem and Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem are growing towards each other. When they meet it will be impossible to draw a border between them.

Why does Larsen think the settlements are "most significant of all" as a cause of the unresolvability of the situation? More significant than the PA's insistence that millions of Palestinians be permitted to move into pre-1967 Israel? More significant than the PA's acceptance of murdering Israelis as an acceptable pressure tactic? More significant than the IDF's return to the Palestinian cities?

A good question is: does the Palestinian media mostly castigate Israel for building Har Homa and permitting 6 caravan hilltop outposts? Or do they instead focus on their casualties, imagined offenses against Islam, and real and imagined humiliation?

Focusing attention on the settlements is done primarily because it facilitates blaming Israel for absolutely everything...

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