They Say, We Say: "Why does the Left oppose construction in settlement blocs?"

They Say We Say 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?

They Say:

Why does the Left oppose construction in settlement blocs? These areas are part of the Israeli national consensus running across the political spectrum.

We Say:

Today it is commonly said that the settlement blocs are part of the Israeli national consensus. Broadly speaking this is true, reflecting the fact that, over the years, almost all Israeli governments have invested heavily in making the settlement blocs seem like an integral part of the state of Israel, even without officially annexing them to Israel.

At the same time, it is also true that most Israelis probably have no idea what is meant by the term “settlement bloc.” Many if not most Israelis almost certainly could not identify what is or is not part of a “settlement bloc” on a map, or mark on a map the areas of the West Bank they believe are part of this so-called national consensus. Indeed, it wasn’t long ago that the whole idea of settlement blocs being part of a national consensus simply didn’t exist. Back in 1993, at the start of the peace process, the large settlements that are today considered part of the national consensus, like Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit, and Ma’ale Adumim, were many magnitudes smaller, both in population and footprint on the ground, and there was not national consensus – real or purported – in support of keeping these settlements, even at the cost of a peace agreement.

It is also important to note that around 20% of Israel's citizens are ethnically Palestinian, and this portion of the population generally does not support the view that Israel should or must hold onto settlement blocs. Thus, when observers - Israeli or non-Israeli - refer to the "national consensus" on settlements, they are by definition excluding the opinions of around one-fifth of the country's citizens. Moreover, even among Israeli Jews there is not an actual consensus, but rather a spectrum of views, including those adamantly opposed to Israel keeping any settlements and those adamantly in favor of Israel keeping all settlements. There are also many Israeli Jews who view the attainment of peace - not the keeping of settlement blocs - as the most important goal of peace negotiations, and who believe that the decision over whether or not Israel will get to keep settlement blocs must be left to the negotiating table.