They Say, We Say: "Keeping settlement blocs is necessary for Israel’s security."
We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.
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Are settlements really a problem?
Settlement blocs are mainly located within the route of the Separation Barrier. This means that keeping these areas is necessary for Israel’s security, so Israel has to be allowed to build there.
Many Israelis assume that what is on the Israeli side of the barrier is part of the "blocs," and what is on the Palestinian side of the barrier is not. However, this ignores the fact that the route of the barrier has been gerrymandered to include as many settlements as possible and to encompass huge areas of adjacent land – the total area of West Bank land that is de facto annexed by the barrier is some twentyfold the size of the built-up area of the settlements in these areas.
This gerrymandering of Israel’s border for the benefit of settlements comes at the cost of vital Israeli interests. First, it undermines the possibility of a two-state solution – without which Israel cannot remain both a democracy and a Jewish state. And second, it sacrifices Israeli security, leaving Israel with a long, convoluted border running near or through the heart of Palestinian populated areas, and leaves large numbers of Palestinians within Israel’s lines of defense. For example:
- In the case of the "Ma'ale Adumim bloc" (east of Jerusalem), the barrier route takes up land many times the size of Ma'ale Adumim, including the area of the planned mega-settlement of E1, a settlement whose construction successive US administrations have recognized as potentially fatal to the two-state solution.
- In the case of the "Givat Ze'ev bloc" (north of Jerusalem), the barrier route extends so far north of the existing settlement that if construction were permitted to fill the bloc, the settlement could expand at least 5 times in size and reach the very edge of Ramallah - bearing in mind that construction is now underway in this "bloc" for a new ultra-Orthodox settlement (whose residents have an average of 7 children).
- In the case of the "Etzion bloc" (south of Jerusalem), the route of the barrier not only captures a huge amount of territory that is not part of the built-up area of the settlements, but it extends deep into the West Bank to include the settlement of Efrat, and in doing so severs Bethlehem completely from the southern West Bank (leaving the city of Bethlehem an isolated enclave between the southern Jerusalem barrier and the Gush Etzion bloc).
- Further north, in the case of the "Ariel bloc" and "Qedumim bloc," these blocs are actually narrow fingers reaching deep inside the West Bank - with the settlement of Ariel, for example, located almost exactly halfway between the Green Line and the Jordan River. Regardless of ideology, it is difficult to imagine a viable peace agreement that leaves these areas under Israeli control.