A reader writes:
Your correspondent who explained the settlements from the point of view of someone who lived in the region provided a useful perspective and a healthy dose of realism. But the writer also unintentionally illustrated why President Obama's emphasis on empathy is among his most important tools of public policy.
It's very striking that someone who lived so close to Palestinians could fail to mention a single legitimate beef the Palestinians might have with the suburban, close in settlements. The only reason land for those settlements was available was that Palestinians were denied -- through legal and extra-legal means -- the very things the settlers are now fighting to keep: The ability to get building permits, the ability to inherit real property, the ability to sell land to people of your own ethnic group, the ability to preserve your neighborhood and community.
My family are among those who left the West Bank "voluntarily."
My grandfather, much to his credit, saw no future for his children there and made sure they all got educations in the U.S., where they all eventually became citizens. For sentimental reasons, my uncle is fighting a losing battle to hang on to the title of my grandparents' house. This sort of effort is doomed in a place where neither Arabs nor Jews respect the rule of law.
Among the failures of the Israeli political system is the leadership's willingness to accept popular de-humanization of their Palestinian neighbors. As Israel's ally, the best service the U.S. can perform is to foster the empathy -- needed on both sides -- that is the prerequisite to good faith negotiation.