Sorry about the blog silence. We've been gallivanting around southern Israel, and the hi-tech Start-Up Nation seems to end somewhere just south of Beersheva. After that it's pretty much the Camels-and-Schwarma Nation. Which isn't a bad thing, but as an ardent Ben-Gurionist (friend-of-Goldblog Faye Bittker, the Voice of the South, arranged for us an excellent tour of the Ben-Gurion archives at Sde Boker yesterday; the junior Goldblogs will one day come to appreciate what they learned), I'm a big believer in settling the desert. As opposed to settling other parts of Biblical Israel. From Ethan Bronner:
In the West Bank, most of the building in recent years has been in large settlements relatively close to Israel that are widely expected to be annexed to it by swapping land elsewhere in a future deal. These include the large settlements of Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion bloc, Betar Illit and Modiin Illit.
Building in those areas generally requires government tenders, and those have been slower in coming lately. The intense recent growth has been more in private building, mostly in smaller and more remote settlements, places with names like Tapuach, Talmon, Ofra, Eli and Shiloh. A number of unauthorized outposts are also seeing substantial growth. The Defense Ministry is in charge of all activity in the West Bank and has the authority to stop even private construction, although it may end up paying compensation.
I would like someone in the Netanyahu government to please explain the plan here. It would make things so much easier to understand if we just knew the plan. Is the plan to continue settling Judea and Samaria so that there is no chance whatsoever of creating a Palestinian state? And if this is the plan, then what happens to those Palestinians who are being denied a state? Will they be absorbed into democratic Israel, thus bringing about an end to the idea that there should be a single small country on earth where Jews can be a majority? Or are they going to be denied democratic rights, in which case, well, Israel as we know it will cease to exist. Or is there some other plan? Or -- maybe -- there is no plan. Maybe these things just happen.
But these settlements come with a price. I don't believe that the Boycott-the-Jewish-State movement is motivated by the presence of settlements on the West Bank; it is motivated by something much, much darker. But the question must be asked: Why would Israel's government acquiesce to the building of settlements that serve only to hurt Israel's reputation among people who are on the fence? Put aside the arguments about what the Palestinians as a people deserve, and put aside the arguments about Israel's demographic future. Even right-wingers agree that Israel's reputation in the world is the lowest it has ever been. Why drive it even lower? So, again: What is the plan?