Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

The Case Against “Natural Growth” of Israeli Settlements

Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo has this provocative argument that the Obama administration is right to hold the line against Israel’s desire to allow “natural growth” in West Bank settlements.

“In Israel, the language of settlement growth is divided into two categories — building new settlements and “natural growth” of existing ones. Even the Netanyahu government says it won’t allow new settlements, only the ‘natural growth’ of original ones. And that doesn’t sound unreasonable on the face of it. After all, families grow. Children get married and start their own families.
Many of the current settlements are much bigger in terms of the land that has been designated for them then they’re actually built up. So, for instance, take the example of Manhattan at the end of the 18th century. If you could go back with an airplane and cruise over this island of ours you’d see that New York then was still a settlement mainly restricted to the southern tip of the Island. Today the whole island is packed to the gills with people and buildings. By the terms of settlement vocabulary, that’s all just been ‘natural growth’, just filling out an already existing area designated for settlement.
In any case, ‘natural growth’ really is the most natural thing in the world if — and this is what all turns on — if you think the settlements are permanent. If the existing settlements are permanent, then it’s silly to think that one settler can live in a house but it’s forbidden to build a new house on the lot next door.
But if the settlements are permanent, then a Palestinian state is basically impossible. And that means the occupation is permanent, as is the conflict.”

What do you think?

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Inherit the Wind

posted June 3, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Darwin noted in Voyage of the Beagle that settlers of all races eventually annihilate the original inhabitants. I don’t see that happening exactly here, because of the lack of a decrease in Palestinian births. Yet the settlers will try to provide the best life for their families and who can blame them. Therefore the settlements are a major road block to the two state solution, but may work in advancement of a one state solution.

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New Age Cowboy

posted June 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I’ve read two articles in HARPER’S & TIME, in the last couple of years. Both said that a one state solution is unsustainable for Israel and would likely lead to civil war in which the Jews are outnumbered.
Besides that, I don’t think U.S. citizens, that haven’t lived in Israel, really know what’s going on. There’s a lot of dynamics on all sides.
I lived in South Korea and the South Koreans were a lot less afraid of Kim Jong Il than we are here in the States.
There’s a lot of Jews in Israel that take a much more liberal line than our U.S. Congress.
Honestly, I’d just as well have the Israeli Jews move here to the States. A lot of them might be safer in our hemisphere.
I also think the Israeli authorities heavy hand isn’t paying off anymore as far as international PR goes and real results.

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Robert Licht

posted June 4, 2009 at 5:28 pm

“But if the settlements are permanent, then a Palestinian state is basically impossible. And that means the occupation is permanent, as is the conflict.”
Reverse the thoughts: If a Palestinian State is basically impossible, then [some of] the settlements [should] be permanent — for the security of Israel. If the conflict is permanent, then the occupation [might, for the duration] be justified for the security of Israel. At the present time, it is difficult to imagine the Palestinians being able to govern themselves. Netanyahu believes Palestinian economic development will enable political development. Let’s hope, but remember China. The dominant opinion among Israelis is that a No State solution is preferable — a federation/confederation of the West Bank and Gaza with Jordan makes the most sense to many Israelis (but not to the Jordanians, of course). The dominant opinion among the Palestinians is that a One State solution is preferable, because it would mean the end of the Jewish state. If a Jewish state can never be legitimate (in their view) then the conflict is indeed intractable. Most Israelis would like to be out of the West Bank, but they see what happened when they left Gaza. Conclusion: this is not the right time to force solutions. (By the way, re: John Marshall’s fallacy; The West Bank is not Manhattan to be filled up ultimately by Jewish settlers; the vast majority of Israelis are not of the Greater Israel persuasion).

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