From the Desk of Dr Ron Weiser AM.

My long held view is that the danger to our community’s interests comes much less from those who hate us, than from those who claim to love us, but who want to save us from ourselves.

At least we know where we stand with those who openly state their hatred of Israel or who question her existence in any size, shape or form.

It’s the ‘double speak’ people, those who claim that if only Israel returned to something she never actually was, who claim that the real issues are Israel’s morality, her behaviour, or any number of other hot buttons they like to press to enable themselves to sleep more securely in their comfortable bed at night, who are the people who truly decrease the security of the citizens of Israel – Jew and non-Jew alike.

Those who continually condemn Israel, but only because they are her friends and wish to help her as is their hollow refrain.

No single issue is so misused and abused by the ‘double speakers’ as the “settlement” one.

Oddly enough, even quite a few of our communal leaders deal in slogans instead of facts on this issue.

So let’s be clear, “settlements” are a subjective, not objective, term.

What a settlement is, is defined by and reflective of one’s own political views.

According to the new Palestinian Unity Government Tel Aviv is a settlement. Some refer to the Green Line – an Armistice Line but not a border – as something that defines settlement. Others refer to anything beyond the three major blocks of Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel. Almost no one talks about towns and villages on the Golan Heights in the context of the settlement debate, although they too are over the Green Line. And when people speak about the Green Line, how do they classify Jerusalem, the Old City and the Kottel?

I would however like to highlight the consensus that exists in Israel and between Israel and her allies in the democratic world as outlined by President Clinton in 2000 and then by a formal exchange of  letters between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon in 2004.

The fact that on settlements there is actually much more agreement than disagreement even if the ‘double speak’ Jews and non-Jews fail to understand that, or perhaps do not want to recognise it.

In a key note speech this week Yair Lapid highlighted exactly that consensus in what some in the media and local leadership once again misused and abused as some sort of anti-settlement announcement.

Ironically, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s settlement freeze for 10 months from November 2009 was actually quite ‘radically left wing’. His settlement freeze included the settlement blocks and therefore inadvertently threw the status of these consensus settlements into some doubt.

Another irony, if we look at actual housing starts, as opposed to the repeated announcements of future housing intentions.

Under the 5 years of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s premiership (2009 to 2013), housing starts averaged 1,443 per year

During Prime Minister Olmert’s premiership (2006 to 2008) 1,702 per year.

Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2001 to 2005) 1,652 per year.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak in one single year, 2000, produced more housing starts in the settlements (4,683) than the entire first 4 years of PM Netanyahu’s term combined (4,679)!

Peace Now is a respected ‘left wing’ organisation, deeply Zionistic and one whose facts can be relied upon. It is probably the leading so called anti settlement organisation in Israel today.

Here’s what they published on the 20thanniversary of the Oslo accords.

“The settlements may have destroyed trust between the sides but, they have not destroyed the two state solution”

Peace Now gives its opinion on the diplomatic wisdom of the settlements, but puts the lie to the oft stated claim that the settlements have destroyed the two state solution.

Clearly, even according to Peace Now, the settlements have not done any such thing

The most ‘radical left wing’ serious Israeli/Palestinian plan for the future boundaries of the two state solution is known as the Geneva Initiative. It was an unofficial agreement reached in 2003 by self proclaimed representatives of Israel and the Palestinians including Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo.

The Geneva Initiative keeps most of the settler population inside a future State of Israel.

This is the key fact that most anti settlement people overlook.

What makes Geneva more ‘radical’ than the 2 state solution continually offered by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians is its treatment of Ariel and some parts of East Jerusalem.

Peace Now continues:

“At a first glance at the population statistics of settlers, you see simply that the number of settlers

have tripled since the Oslo accords. However, by looking a bit closer you will see that in fact,

most of the settlements with population growths are those that according to the final status model of the

Geneva Initiative will remain under Israeli control in exchange for land swaps. In fact, half of the new settlers since Oslo, moved to only three set”

Gosh, stunning news!!

The last 20 years of the growth of the settlement population has occurred mostly inside the Geneva Initiative that means inside the consensus when even the ‘radical left wing’ is included.

And if one looks at the plans presented by Prime Ministers Sharon, Olmert et al and Presidents Clinton and Bush that is, the real representatives of Israel and her allies then 20 years of settlement population growth has occurred almost exclusively within the consensus settlements.

Peace Now says

“The total number of settlers living today east of the Geneva Initiative line composes only 1.8% of the Israeli population.”

Peace Now also put the oft misrepresented situation of the 100 or so unauthorised outposts into proper perspective.

“80% of the buildings in the outposts are transportable: mobile homes and light construction buildings.

Most of the outposts remain small in size, containing less than 20-30 families.

Only 10,000 settlers live in all of the outposts put together.”

So what does all of this mean?

It means that even if we use the basis of the Geneva Initiative some 500,000 of the approximately 650,000 settlers are well within the consensus.

And if we use the Sharon/Olmert/Clinton/Bush/Lapid parameters probably around half of the remaining settlers are well within the consensus too.

Meaning that in Israel, unlike here inside our own community, the debate is only about the fate of approximately 10% of the settlers.

The danger is that the ‘double speakers’ inside and outside the Australian community think the debate is the other way round.

They think they are talking about, or want to talk about, 90% of the settlers.

They do this either as a deliberate ploy, or out of ignorance.

Quite simply, the settlements are not the obstacle to peace.

They are not the obstacle to peace because as Peace Now says, they have not destroyed the two state solution.

And they are not the obstacle to peace because Israel has a history of moving settlers and settlements as needed to achieve peace treaties and disengagement lines as painful as that process may be.

What settlements do become is a convenient diversionary excuse for Palestinian unwillingness to accept a Jewish State of any size in the Middle East.

A diversionary excuse that the ‘double speakers’ eagerly adopt.

It is these ‘double speak friends’ who misrepresent the picture of the settlers and the settlements, who harm Israel in terms of hasbara and ultimately damage her physical security.

Shabbat shalom

Dr.Ron Weiser.AM.

Editor’s note for those of you who don’t know Ron. He is Immediate Past President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Honorary Life President of the Zionist Council of New South Wales and Committee Member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency (The Sochnut)

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