My father had a wonderful habit. When a discussion relating to a certain subject took place and those present started splitting hairs, delve deep into irrelevant details and digress into all kinds of futile directions, my father would stop the conversation and open with the words: “I am a simple man…” and would go on recounting the three or four indisputable facts at the heart of the matter, which no quibbling or digression would change. By doing this he would bring the discussion back on track.
In recent days the media is drowning in the fine details relating to the approval of the settlement in Migron, the demolishing of the suburb in Beit El and the evacuation of the Machpela house in Hebron. While the political wrangling continues over the newspapers’ pages and the TV and computer screens, what I am missing is a longer, wider view then the next scuffle on some remote hill. Like my father, I am also a simple man. My political views regarding the settlements are irrelevant to our discussion and to be honest, political views of all sides carry very little weight when the discussion turns to two central questions relating to the settlements. The first – would it be possible to defend them during an all-out regional war? And the second – what would their fate be if and when a final political agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians?
During an all-out regional war, when the IDF might find itself fighting on the ground stretched to its limits under a massive missile bombardment, facing mainly terrorists but also regular armies on the borders of Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, and when the West Bank, the Galilee and the ‘Triangle’ would pose serious security challenges of their own, I am not convinced it would be able to defend the dwellers of remote and isolated settlements against terror attacks and mass onslaughts by the local mobs. It may not even be able to carry out an evacuation of these settlers to safer areas.
A political settlement, if it would be reached one day, will require a pretty clear separation of the Israeli and Arab populations from each other, through exchanges of territories and populations where needed. A single state for two peoples will not work here and these two populations will not live in peace with each other even in 50 or 100 years. The only thing that might work is a complete separation and a final and clear marking of separating borders. It is enough to take one look at the map of existing settlements to understand that this knot would be nearly impossible to untangle in any future agreement. To the mentally unstable talkback writers who call for Fascism and transfer I can only say – Hitler and Mussolini have already tried it. It doesn’t work.
I was an officer on the ground when the Yamit area was evacuated nearly 30 years ago. I watched, like all other Israeli, the evacuation of the settlers from the Gaza Strip. I read and listen to the futile arguments between Barak and Ye’elon, hear Lieberman threatening to dismantle the coalition, and ask myself if anybody is thinking about the real questions. As I said, I am a simple man.