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November 7, 2014 3:36 pm

Settlements Have Led to Better Lives for Israeli Arabs

avatar by Ariel Kahana

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The Jewish community of Beit El in Judea and Samaria. Credit: Yaakov via Wikimedia Commons.

There is no wider-acknowledged international convention than “Settlements are an obstacle to peace.” Israel doesn’t even try to argue with the assertion. Even the settlers themselves can be quite flummoxed by it, at times.

But there really is no point in pretending. The vision of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria was not born to appease the country’s Arabs. The settlement enterprise sought to fulfill Zionism and expand the settlement of the patrimony of the Jewish people throughout the Land of Israel.

But after considering the facts of the issue on their merits, a question arises: do the settlements push peace further away, or do they foster it?

There is no doubt that the settlements are like a bone in the throat of the Palestine Liberation Organization. An easy, catchy slogan, and one perfectly formed for hanging all the Palestinians’ woes upon. The well-honed message has been absorbed worldwide and has become the soft underbelly of Israeli hasbara efforts to make its case internationally.

But, after shedding the political spin and rhetoric, one must honestly ask whether the removal of the settlements would bring peace, prosperity, economic development, democracy, and allow the rights of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria to flourish – or whether the exact opposite will transpire.

Events of recent years provide an irrefutable answer. Where there is Israeli settlement, Arab settlement flourishes. Where there are settlements, there is peace.

Let us “Arise and walk the land,” it says in Genesis, from north to south.

Imagine the Golan Heights were now in Syrian hands. What might be the fate of the 20,000 Druze in Majdal Shams and Buq’ata? Besides Israeli settlements, what’s keeping them from slaughter by Assad’s brutal regime or jihadist groups? How are they any different from the residents of nearby miserable Deir al Zour in Syria?

The answer is 18,000 Israeli settlers in the Golan Heights, working the earth. Without them the plateau would have long returned to Syrian hands and the predictable outcome.

Let us descend to the southwest through the Galilee and Wadi Ara. While, here, there is no immediate threat of an Israeli withdrawal, in comparison to their brethren in Arab countries, Israeli Arabs have it far better.

While this may sound a bit arrogant, let’s let the numbers do the talking.

The Israeli Arab standard of living is significantly higher than the norm for their neighbors. They enjoy freedoms that simply do not exist in the Arab region – first among them a fair and stable democratic government allowing them to live their lives.

Unlike, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, and the like, Israeli Arabs do not face the threat of casual and random killings in the streets. Israeli settlements – in this case within the ’67 lines, are the guarantor of their well being.

The next and most prominent stop along the way is the Gaza Strip, practically a scientific experiment proving the thesis.

Settlers, followed by the army, were forced to leave Gaza during the 2006 withdrawal. What has happened since? Has the civil and economic welfare of the Arabs of Gaza improved or deteriorated? Did their per capita GDP increase or decrease? Did democratic freedoms and personal security rise or fall?

The answers are well known.

Israel’s exit from Gaza devastated not only the lives of the settlers but also the lives of those remaining in the coastal enclave. Since the shameful retreat, tens of thousands of jobs that Israel and the settlements provided Gazans have disappeared. GDP per capita fell and unemployment soared. A terrorist, fanatical, and violent Islamic regime seized power and destabilized the region as a whole.

With the loss of the settlements, so too was peace with the Arabs of Gaza lost. No, not a full peace, not a rosy-hued peace, not a platonic peace, but rather peaceful relations that allowed one to live a relatively quiet life, the heart’s desire of any sane person – and certainly if they live in the Middle East.

Today, in Judea and Samaria, relative peace prevails. Settlements are helping tens of thousands of breadwinners, to the benefit of local Arabs and for mutual profit. (The Palestinian Authority withdrew its plans to stop Palestinians from working in settlements two years ago, after it realized how damaging and painful that would be.) Thousands of others, thanks to the Israeli presence, are allowed to work within Israel “proper.”

All this is happening thanks to the settlers.

So too in political aspects. Thanks to the connection to Israel, the Palestinian Authority is the most democratic entity in the Arab world. The IDF presence prevents the rise of Hamas and guarantees a secure and relatively peaceful life for Arabs of Judea and Samaria.

The Arabs of Judea and Samaria are spared the dangers of slaughter, tyranny, and military coups, so common in the region, because of the settlers who insist on staying in the land of their ancestors.”Ž

No one knows what the ultimate political solution to the conflict will be, but in the meantime life goes on. Here and there, there are even signs of cooperation: blossoming industrial areas and agriculture. Even as there is a struggle against the security barrier, shopping centers sprout up like mushrooms after the rain.

In conclusion, the removal of the settlers would endanger not only the safety of Israel but also the safety of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.

Although saying it aloud isn’t politically correct, the plain truth is that the settlements bring peace.

Ariel Kahana is the Diplomatic correspondent of Makor Rishon weekly and in Israel.

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  • Josh

    This article is inaccurate at its core. I’ll explain:

    1. The article boasts that Settlements are beneficial to “Israeli Arabs”. However, not all Arabs mentioned in this article are in fact Israeli by any stretch of the imagination (not legally or otherwise). Arabs living in Judea, Samaria or Gaza do not have Israeli citizenship and therefore are not Israeli. They are Palestinian Arabs (or any other term you would prefer to use but they definitely are not Israeli). This is not just a technicality; it changes the entirety of your argument as the reliance of Palestinians on Settlement economy is just logical as Settlers see it as a mutually beneficial deal – they get to produce through the ever growing Israeli market and can get cheaper labor by hiring Palestinians. Your cause and effect are therefore misleading.
    2. The Galilee is NOT a Settlement. It never was. It is universally recognized as Israel proper just as Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa are. So that argument falls off too.
    3. Although you are technically correct by grouping the Druze in with Israeli Arabs as they are Israeli and Arabs, they do not define themselves as such. It is almost tantamount to calling Israeli Jews of Iraqi decent “Israeli Arabs” as they are Israeli and are technically Arabs as they come from an Arab country. If you knew anything about the Druze community you would know that that would not fly. That makes this argument very problematic to say the least.
    4. Your Gaza argument is misleading as well. While yes, the economy in Gaza since the withdrawal has been on a constant decline, you can’t necessarily link that to the Settlers. That’s false dichotomy. You failed to mention that Gaza is blockaded (rightfully so or not rightfully so, it doesn’t matter in this context) and has very limited connection with the outside world, unlike the situation before the withdrawal. It is impossible for an economy to flourish under those conditions. Therefore, this argument is completely erroneous in an economic sense.
    5. I think it’s imperative that as a journalist, you present accurate facts and actual causality. You have not done so and so, in my opinion, by doing this you have only damaged your claim. The fact is that you have not proven that Israeli Arabs benefit from the Settlements in any manner. Maybe Palestinian Arabs do but that, as I pointed out above, is very much a mutually beneficial relationship with the Settlers (who benefit as much, if not more, from the Palestinians).

  • This is not merely a recent situation. The land of Syria-Palestine, a remote and neglected province of the Ottoman Empire was virtually deserted, a mixture of malarial swamps and desert, until the mid-19th century when Jews began to resettle the land. In the 1880s and 1890s as the second Aliyah and Bilu brought settlers, and the port of Jaffa was revived, Arabs flooded in from the surrounding countries and it is these people who now call themselves “Palestinians”. So it was the Jewish presence that revived the land. Colonisation has been turned by propagandists into an ugly word, in English at least, but look how former colonies, such as those in Africa, have deteriorated since they got their independence. Take Ghana, which became independent in the 1960s and yet has not even paved roads in its large towns and has not provided remoter places with a water supply. Take Sierra Leone and the Congo with their vast mineral resources. They could have done with benign colonisation of the kind created by the early settlements such as Petah Tiqva and the modern ones in the West Bank.

  • steven L

    This goes also AGAINST the narrative of the western mass media.

  • steven L

    These are bad news for the PA and Hamas who want to prove to the western world that IL makes every Arab Pal become POOR!

  • Michael Fox

    While the conclusion of the author is correct, the Arabs the author refers to who are dependent on Israel for their security, health and welfare, would just as soon have the Jews gone or dead and the state of Israel along with them.

    Long before the creation of Israel, the “deprivation” concept was a way of life for what was a mostly a nomadic Arab people. Hardship and lethargy partnered with deprivation to create today’s Palestinian. As familiar as and old pair of worn out slippers, the Arabs go with what they know. The idea of living in prosperity is alien to the average Palestinian. It is why after Hamas led the territory and people of Gaza into disaster, the Palestinians would once again chose the rule of Hamas.

  • Herb Grossman

    But let’s face it, it is casting pearls before the swine. The Arabs will never appreciate living in peace and prosperity as long as there are “others” whom they can try to slaughter, even if those others are those who bring them the peace and prosperity.