The settlements are not the reason for violence

Neither the Israeli victory in the 1967 war nor even Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria constitutes the reason for Palestinian violence and terrorism. Terror began prior to the 1967 war, long before the settlements. As early as 1929 the Palestinians began to fight the Jews in the Land of Israel in an organized fashion.

In 1947, the United Nations decided to establish two states between the sea and the Jordan River, one for the Arabs and the other for the Jews. The Palestinians rejected this compromise and went to war, at the conclusion of which the borders of the Jewish state were fixed–what are commonly called the 1967 borders. Those borders mark the place where the IDF and the Arab armies ceased firing at one another.

In 1967, another war broke out between the State of Israel and its neighbors, one that ended with the IDF sitting on the banks of the Jordan River and controlling the West Bank, which had been a part of the kingdom of Jordan. The UN Security Council called on Israel to withdraw to "secure borders", thereby launching a debate, which continues to this day, as to whether Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders or withdraw from only part of the territories to a line that fits the definition of a secure border.

For Israel, a country the size of Kuwait, a secure border is a vital necessity. Over the past four years Israel learned just how hard it is to defend civilian population centers that are proximate to the departure points of terrorists wearing explosive belts. The term "secure borders" has taken on stronger significance as a lesson drawn from this war against terrorism.

After Israel’s calls for negotiations had been turned down by the Arab states during the late 1960s, Israelis began establishing new settlements in the areas under IDF control. There were two principal reasons for this departure. The first was the need to configure new borders for the State of Israel that could be critical for its capacity to defend itself. Three main areas were settled with a defensive purpose in mind: Jerusalem, the capital, and the narrow corridor leading to it from the Latrun region; the western hilltops of Judea and Samaria that dominate Israel’s strategic and civilian center from Beersheva in the south to Afula in the north; and the Jordan Valley and the ridge controlling it from the west (the Alon Road area), from Jericho in the south to Ein al-Beida in the north.

A second reason for the settlements was the desire to fulfill the Jews’ historic right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel. Return to the Land of Israel was understood by many Jews as a religious obligation that must be realized wherever possible.

It cannot be argued that the source of violence and terrorism is the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza or settlement there, when Fateh itself carried out terrorist operations inside the State of Israel beginning in 1965, two years before the war. Anyone reading the words of Gamal Abd al-Nasser or Yasser Arafat before 1967 grasps immediately that in their view it was justifiable to eliminate Israel before it had established a single settlement in the West Bank and Gaza. Even today, terrorism from Gaza continues, though Israel has announced that it is about to withdraw all settlements and all army units from there.

The bitter truth is that a considerable number of Palestinians seek to destroy the State of Israel. The possibility that the settlements do indeed create a situation in which Israel’s borders will be more secure, reflecting the UN Security Council’s decision, is a nightmare for those who still dream of destroying the Jewish state. All the rest is public relations excuses.

In the Middle East reality there is no symmetry between Israel and the Arab countries. The Palestinians, for example, have but one enemy, while Israel is alone in the region with few friends and many enemies, thereby explaining its sensitivity to its security needs. Indeed, the Palestinian people’s Arab brothers each have a state; a Palestinian state will be number 23. In contrast, the Jewish nation has but one state, Israel. In order better to defend that state, settlements were established in areas vital for its defense. That cannot justify Palestinian violence against Israel.