Last week, the Washington Post dedicated an entire section of the paper to airing Palestinian grievances and talking points. The section was called “Occupied: Year 50.”
This week, the Post was back with more, turning the first five pages of its Sunday “Outlook” over to Dan Ephron so he could whine about Israeli settlements. I don’t recall anyone ever getting five pages in “Outlook” to write, or in this case rant, about anything.
Ephron’s piece is akin to last week’s rant by William Booth and Sufian Taha. Those two went on and on about the difficulties Palestinians face when traveling from the West Bank to Jerusalem, but never mentioned the reason why checkpoints exist — to protect Israel from the chronic acts of terrorism committed by Palestinians.
This week, Ephron goes on and on about how West Bank settlements have been “normalized” in the thinking of Israelis during the past 50 years, with scarcely a mention of the main reason why. In his telling, the expansion and “normalization” of settlements stems from the ability of settlers to influence public opinion and “bend the will of Israeli institutions.” But they could never have done so if the Palestinians had displayed a serious desire to trade land for peace. (Ephron doesn’t mention Palestinian intransigence until the last page and the 51st paragraph of his tome, and then does so only in passing).
Abba Eban, the Israeli diplomat who hoped — as many of us did — to see a trade of land for peace, perfectly captured the reason why the trade never occurred. After years of trying to make this deal, he said that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Ephron professes surprise that, after 50 years, the opportunity may well irrevocably have been missed. As he traveled around the West Bank, Ephron was shocked that life in the settlements seems normal. Why, the town of Ariel has a thriving university, a soccer team that competes with clubs from “inside Israel,” a shopping mall, and (soon) a state-of-the-art hospital. And in Kiryat Arba, Israel’s national theater company staged a play.
It’s as if Ephron expected Israelis to demand that their settlers to leave no footprint — to live in tents and herd sheep for 50 years — while waiting for the Palestinians to give up their designs on conquering Israel.
In real life, time waits for no one — and certainly not for a people bent on destroying their neighbors.
Ephron also expresses amazement that most Israelis have no reverence for, or even clear concept of, the Green Line — the border Israelis abided by until the Arabs tried to conquer them in 1967. But why should they? The border was ridiculous — at its narrowest point from the Mediterranean coast to the demarcation line, Israel is only about nine miles wide — and it has not corresponded to reality on the ground for 50 years.
Here’s what would genuinely be shocking: for anyone to regard conditions that prevailed 50 years ago to be normal today.
Think of the territorial transformation of the United States between, say, 1800 and 1850. Expecting Israelis to remain confined within the Green Line is like expecting early Americans to remain in the 13 states, but with these differences: (1) none of the 13 original states was nine miles wide and (2) by the time of the American Founding, American Indians, to my knowledge, weren’t bent on driving the former colonists into the sea.
Many passages in Ephron’s article suggest that he is either clueless or, more likely, the captive of anti-Israel ideology. He complains that the settlements “with their swimming pools and other amenities are off limits” to Palestinians.
What is it about the self-preservation instinct that Ephron does not understand? And why, if he expects the settlements to be integrated, does he write at length about the need to forcibly relocate settlers — a minimum of 150,000 of them, he says — under any “peace” plan. In his view, large portions of the West Bank must be judenrein (free of Jews), but until then, Jews should swim with people who insist that they be relocated, and who might want to kill them.
Ephron seems concerned that many Israeli “centrists” have bought into the settlers’ “talking point” that the settlements bolster Israel’s security. However, he offers no evidence or argument that this view is incorrect.
He then moans that “some [centrists] even admire the settlers — for their can-do spirit and their ability to withstand attacks by Palestinian militants.” Admiring pioneers who withstand attacks by Israel’s sworn enemies? We can’t have that. What kind of Jews are we dealing with here, anyway?
I’ll conclude my rant on a personal note. I know a young Israeli woman who is not a centrist, but rather a leftist. She fell in love with a young man from a settler family. His family farms outside of the Green Line.
The young woman is among the Israelis who take the Green Line seriously. She has always been anti-settler. Her potential husband’s desire to live and work on the farm was a serious problem for her.
In the end, though, love prevailed. She currently resides on the West Bank. She is what Ephron would call a settler.
What was this woman supposed to do? Was she supposed to reject the love of her life and his family on the theory that they are obstacles to peace? Was she supposed to put off marriage and wait for the Palestinians to give up their aggressive designs and enter into a peace agreement that has been a chimera for 50 years?
The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Fortunately, the young woman, like so many other Israelis, did not miss hers.