An Israeli Perspective: Can the Settlers be Evacuated?

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A strong government, a solid peace agreement, and the support of a large majority of Israelis will be needed to justify a forceful removal. In such circumstances, opposition would shrink to a fanatical hard core, which would pose no real threat to Israel. This is what happened on a much smaller scale when the Begin government forcibly removed settlers from the northern Sinai. Then-Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon oversaw that operation. Perhaps another analogy can be drawn from the Algerian War of Independence. More than a million French settlers, some of whom had lived in Algeria for generations, fled the country within weeks after liberation. The colonists tried to mount armed opposition, but in the face of hostile public opinion, their opposition faltered.

Possible Solutions: 

Once an Israeli government comes to the conclusion that peace must be based on the coexistence of two states side by side, with a border based on the Green Line, the settlement problem will necessarily be solved along the following lines: A territorial swap would redraw the borders in both directions, perhaps in both parties’ interest. This would allow for the continued existence of some of the larger settlements near the pre-1967 border, i.e., the neighborhoods inside annexed Jerusalem, which are by now inseparable from the city landscape (Gilo, French Hill, and others). Settlements such as Ma’aleh Adumim, outside Jerusalem, must be dealt with like other settlements.

In return, Israel would relinquish land adjoining Palestinian territory; this land could be used for the settlement of returning Palestinian refugees. Such a swap was said to have been found acceptable during the negotiations between Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Some Israelis have proposed annexing the strip of Palestinian villages on the Israeli side of the Green Line (“the Little Triangle”) to the Palestinian state. The Palestinian citizens of Israel living there, however, have objected, perhaps because their standard of living, while lower than the Israeli average, is higher than the average in the Palestinian territories. Also, they have long-established ties to the Israeli economic, political, and social systems. Another possibility is to annex uninhabited territory along the Gaza Strip known as the “Halutza dunes” and/or south of the Hebron area to a future state of Palestine. These desert areas are not equivalent to the agricultural land of the settlements, yet they could be used for housing purposes.

As for Jerusalem, former U.S. President Bill Clinton suggested that the Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas already annexed by Israel become part of Israel. In return, Israel would agree to turn over all of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, including the Haram al-Sharif, to the Palestinians. All other settlements must be evacuated.

Generous compensation will have to be paid by the state to assist settlers in building a new life in Israel. Some of the more fanatical settlers will return to their countries of origin, but most will become citizens in Israel. In return for compensation, the settlers must leave all buildings and installations intact as part of Israeli reparations and for use in absorbing returning Palestinian refugees. Israel must acknowledge their right of return in principle and afford the refugees the choice either to return or to accept compensation. All refugees will be given, as a matter of course, Palestinian citizenship, including the right to settle in the state of Palestine. An agreed upon number must be allowed to settle in Israel.

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