A Mere Corollary to the Settlements
By Amira Hass

Amira Hass writes for the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz.  This article appeared in the Wednesday, February 28, 2021 edition, and was sent to us by the author with permission to post it here.

There is a direct connection between, on the one hand, broadening the license given to Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim junction to open fire, and, on the other hand, the announcement by the Mekorot Water Company that, in the foreseeable future, it might prove impossible to supply water to Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin.  Israeli military officers and civilian officials are operating in an atmosphere which nurtures the view that the Palestinians who live in this land are just "excess baggage" that is grudgingly tolerated (in the absence of any other option), but only on condition that Palestinians follow the rules laid down by the winning side, that is, the Jewish authorities.  Granted, the Palestinians on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip have, for the past five months, been violating the conditions established by the Oslo Agreement.  They have come to the conclusion that they will no longer stand idly by while Israel exploits the terms of that agreement to consolidate the Jewish settlements and to use them for the purpose of buttressing its control of the Palestinian entity.  And, in this context, it is irrelevant what this entity is called, how large it is, and of how many Bantustans it is composed.

In response to the Palestinians' violation of the Oslo Agreement, Israeli soldiers have been ordered for the past five months to shoot, blow up, uproot, sweep away, dig, block, detain and imprison people behind huge concrete cubes and earth ramparts.  For the past five months, a 34-year-old reality has reached the limits of polarization.  The existence of the Palestinian entity, comprising three million human beings, is a mere corollary—its well-being secondary—to the peace and personal security of some 200,000 Jewish settlers on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and of some 180,000 persons living in the territory annexed by Israel in 1967.  Life, studies, work, a livelihood, an agricultural setting that has been in existence for centuries and a newly established industrial infrastructure—all of this is a collective hostage in the hands of the Israeli military authorities, whose sole mission is to protect the Jewish settlers.

Thus, whatever the Palestinians do is suspicious, if it is done near a Jewish settlement or alongside a highway traveled regularly by Jewish settlers.  Since the Jewish settlements were from the beginning scattered throughout the Palestinian territory, and since the highways connecting them to the State of Israel have been paved alongside the villages and cities of the majority population in the territories (namely, the Palestinians), it follows that Palestinians are regarded with suspicion wherever they live and wherever they happen to be walking.  Somebody happens to be walking on foot near Netzarim?  It is highly unlikely that this person lives in the area.  If your car broke down, you would not be just wandering about, as this person is doing.  The moment a figure appears in their rifle's telescopic sight or in their night vision equipment, 19-year-old Israeli soldiers suddenly have total authority to decide whether this figure is suspicious and therefore a legitimate target.

This situation has been preceded by decades of regarding the Palestinian community's existence as, at best, secondary to that of the Jewish state and, at worst, a threat to that Jewish state.  That is why a representative of Mekorot, which is totally under Israeli control and which has "sovereignty" over all water resources in this land (on both sides of the so-called Green Line)—can announce (without arousing any protest from within Israeli Jewish society) that no water will be supplied to (the Palestinian residents of) Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin.  There will, however, be enough water for the settlers of Kiryat Arba (a Jewish neighborhood in Hebron), Beit Hagai, the Jewish community of Hebron, Efrat, Neveh Daniel, Tekoa, the Etzion Bloc, Ganim, Kadim, Ma'aleh Efraim and Shavei Shomron.

Faithful to the concept of the superiority of the Jewish community and the secondary status of the Palestinian community, all of Israel's governments since 1967 have followed the policy of an unequal distribution—based on ethnic affiliation—of water to Palestinians as against Israelis and to Israeli Arabs as against Israeli Jews.  Israel has followed a similar policy of gross inequality in its past and present allocation of land for development and for construction and its distribution of its budgets for development and investment; here again the criterion has been the ethnic distinction between Jews and Arabs.  Furthermore, this policy of unequal allocation of land and budgets has been carried out on both sides of the Green Line.  In any other country, such a policy would be labeled "racist."

It is easy and convenient to present the operations of the Israel Defense Forces in the territories as actions designed to protect the Jewish settlers, who are also Israeli citizens, from Palestinian attacks.  However, it is wishful, naive thinking to imagine that the Israeli government has invested and is continuing to invest vast sums of money for the sake of the security and welfare of Jewish settlers and that this investment is simply the expression of a government's natural concern for its citizens.  No Israeli government has ever been able to find any resources to promote the welfare of hundreds of thousands of other Israeli citizens—for instance, the elderly, the chronically ill, or children living in development towns or in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Nonetheless, all of Israel's governments since 1967 have invested and are continuing to invest in the Jewish settlers because their existence and their settlements serve the basic Israeli plan, which is aimed at preventing the Palestinians from living in their own independent state, with the same prospects for development as the Jewish state.

When the implementation of this plan is interrupted, the IDF and the Israel Police are given carte blanche to use strong-arm tactics against anyone who dares stand in the way and demand equal rights.  If the pro-Oslo governments (first the cabinet headed by Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and then the cabinet headed by Ehud Barak, Peres and Ben-Eliezer) were really interested in a peace treaty based on the establishment of two independent states—Israel and Palestine—as well as in good neighborly relations and in an historic reconciliation, they would not have enabled the Jewish settlements in the territories to sprout and flourish, nor would they have allowed the Jewish settlers to dictate to Israeli soldiers on rules of engagement or to dictate the nature of the national agenda, or to dictate the future of an entire state.  If these governments had really been interested in such a peace treaty and in the principles of good, neighborly relations and historic reconciliation, they would have prepared the Israeli public for the inevitability of the evacuation of all the Jewish settlements in the territories—from Netzarim to Ma'aleh Adumim.

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