They Say, We Say: The Left is obsessed with settlements

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:

The Left is obsessed with settlements. Clearly this is just an excuse to bash Israel.

We Say:

Settlements are antithetical to peace. If settlement construction continues, settlements will destroy the very possibility of peace and, with it, sentence Israel to a future where it will no longer be viable as both a Jewish state and a democracy.

Settlements are, at every level, a liability for Israel. It is because of settlements that the route of Israel's "separation barrier" has been distorted, lengthening and contorting Israel's lines of defense. It is because of settlements that Israeli soldiers are forced to act as police within the West Bank, rather than focusing on their real mission - defending Israel. Settlements are also a huge drain on Israel's economy, with the government continuing to fund construction and to provide settlers a wide range of financial benefits.

It is because of settlements that Israel is forced to rule over a huge - and growing - non-Jewish, disenfranchised population, contrary to basic democratic values. Settlement policies and the actions of settlers erode Israel's image in the world as a democratic state that respects the civil rights of all people under its rule. If allowed to block a two-state solution, settlements will ultimately leave Israeli decision-makers with an impossible choice: be a democracy and give full rights to the Palestinians, at the cost of Israel's Jewish character, or deny rights to the majority of the people under Israeli rule - which the Palestinians will soon be - validating accusations that Israel is increasingly an Apartheid-like state.

Settlement expansion extinguishes hope among Palestinians that Israel is serious about peace. It destroys the credibility of Palestinian moderates - Israel's best partners for peace - who reject violence and tell their people that negotiations will deliver a viable state. After nearly five decades of watching settlements grow to take up more and more land and damage the fabric of their lives, Palestinians view settlement construction today as a litmus test of Israeli seriousness about peace.

Many Israeli politicians, from across the political spectrum, acknowledge that most settlements - Israeli civilian neighborhoods built on land occupied by Israel in 1967 - will have to be removed as part of any peace agreement. At the same time, past negotiations suggest that most settlers should be able to remain where they are, as part of a land-swap deal. Existing settlements already make such arrangements complicated; if settlements continue to expand, creating new facts on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, they will further complicate negotiations and could eventually make an agreement impossible. That, after all, is the goal of the settlements and of those who support them.