I am stuck in a huge traffic jam at the entrance to Jerusalem, and I am furious. Around me I see hundreds of cars stuck at the only entrance to the “eternal capital”, as they are every day, and as they are at the entrance to Tel-Aviv and Haifa. My thoughts wander to the dozens of wonderful, modern, wide, multi-lane by-pass roads that were built all over the West Bank, including the one from Modi’in to Jerusalem, all of which are now completely empty.
I think about the railway that is not there é a scandal of long standing. One train would have solved the problem, but the railway was not built. There was no money. Billions were poured into the settlements and the by-pass roads, and no money was left for the railroad, the means of mass-transportation operating even in the most backwards countries.
Nobody knows the total sum that has been invested by the state in the settlements during the last 33 years. It is impossible to know, because much of it is hidden in a variety of obscure budget items. Without doubt, many tens of billions. Perhaps hundreds of billions. The billions that were needed for the building of a strong infrastructure, for providing employment, for hospitals, improved schools and universities. With the money invested in one medium-sized settlement, several hospitals could be built, so that no granny would have to lie in a corridor.
Nobody dares to talk about this openly. The “social” demagogues and the politicians who have built their careers on the “needy strata” of society é not one of them dares to spell it out: that the settlements are a tumor that sucks the blood from the social body. The settlements have pushed many sectors of our state to the level of the Third World.
An Israeli paradox: It is the victims of this phenomenon é the unemployed of Ofakim, the sick of Yerucham, the disabled of Ashkelon é who are the most enthusiastic admirers of the nationalist regime that furthers the cause of the settlers.
But the money taken away from development and welfare is only a small fraction of the national expenditure on the settlements. The need to protect the settlements swallows a huge part of the state’s giant defense budget. At this moment, the Israeli army is almost completely absorbed by this task, reservists are taken from the workshops and high-tech enterprises to guard Netzarim, Kfar-Darom and dozens of other tiny settlements in the middle of a dense Palestinian population. “Closure”, “siege” and all the other devices for the protection of the settlers are turning us into a pariah state in the eyes of the world.
This, too, is not the whole story. The settlements are the main obstacle preventing peace between us and the Arab world. Because of them, Israeli governments do not dare to return to the pre-1967 Green Line, even after the Palestinians have already given up 78% of historic Palestine, which was conquered by us in 1948. Because of the settlements, no border can be fixed, making permanent peace impossible. The other problems é such as the Temple Mount and the refugees é would be solved, if this central problem were resolved.
In the absence of peace, the occupation goes on. The Palestinian people rises up against the occupation, as would any other people. No army in the world is able to put down such an uprising. For this reason, the senior officers are looking é consciously or unconsciously é for a confrontation that they capable of facing: war. Under the auspices of Sharon, we are sliding slowly but surely into a general war. This week we heard war threats because of a 10 cm. (4 inch) pipe taking water from the Hazbani river in Lebanon to near-by villages. In the next war, chemical and biological missiles will almost certainly be employed. The civilian population will suffer as never before.
A symbiosis has taken place between the army chiefs and the settlers. The generals see themselves as the patrons of the settlements. The military that was supposed to be a “small, smart army” for the defense of the state is becoming more and more like a colonial militia for the defense of the settlements. It has become more and more estranged from large parts of society. The best and the brightest do not remain in the army, they go to high-tech and the universities. Their place is being taken by the fanatical “hesder” yeshivot, a kind of modern version of the Templar order of the Crusaders.
A simple question: When did the State of Israel ever consciously decide to sacrifice itself on this altar? When was this choice ever put clearly before the people? When has the public, the Knesset or the government ever made the decision to take this road?
The answer: never. This way was imposed on the state by a small, fanatic, messianic-nationalistic sect, which was joined over time by opportunists, gold-diggers and villas-for-nothing seekers. They have dragged the state on their way, step by step, and now it’s they who decide the destiny of the State of Israel.
The tail is wagging the dog.