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The Ultimate 'Settlements Are Not the Problem’ Article

First: the day after the Israel-PLO agreement was signed in 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made it clear that Israel’s interpretation was that it permitted continued construction on existing settlements. The Palestinian Authority did not object, and that policy did not prevent it from negotiating over the next seven years.

Misrepresentations -- deliberately? -- often make people think that Israel is establishing new settlements or expanding the size of existing ones. Both claims are untrue.

Second: if the Palestinian side wants an end to settlements, that should be an incentive for reaching a peace agreement faster and thus getting rid of all settlements on the territory of the new state of Palestine. Notice that Israel -- under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, no less -- demolished all of the settlements in the Gaza Strip as, among other things, a sign of what could be gained by a peace deal.

Yet the Palestinian side has been in no hurry to make a deal. In theory, when it complains about settlements, the response should be: "So why don’t you compromise for peace and get rid of them, rather than having them become 'larger?'"

But you don’t have to think this is a new idea. That was exactly what King Hussein of Jordan told the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s “legislative” body, on November 22, 1984. He explained:

The years go by ... The holy and cherished land is being swallowed up every day. ... How long shall we heed those among us who say: Leave it for future generations ... ? What makes them believe that the circumstances of future generations will be more conducive [when postponement is merely] giving the enemy more time?

In other words, your refusal to make peace makes things worse:

We thus enabled the enemy to exploit time in order to change reality on the land of Palestine in its favor. ... Brothers and sisters, because we will be harmed the most as a result of the continuation of the present state of affairs ... experience taught us to renounce immobility.

Or, to put it bluntly, stop quarreling and using violence and demanding too much and expecting to gain a total victory that will wipe Israel off the map -- and just make a compromise two-state solution.

That was almost thirty years ago, and the same points still apply.

To summarize:

-- Most of what is said about settlements in the West isn’t true.

-- If you are really being so hurt by the existence and growth of settlements, then make peace fast and get rid of them.

-- If you don’t want to make peace fast and get rid of them, then settlements aren’t your problem; Israel’s existence is.

-- And that means you have an unsolvable problem, and someone will reprint the above column about thirty years from now.