The Zionist Conspiracy

A clandestine undertaking on behalf of Israel, the Jets and the Jews.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Limits of Yesha

"By the middle of this year, 6,000 new housing units will be completed, and 35,000 Israelis are expected to move to the West Bank, more than doubling the territory's current Jewish population and bringing the total to more than 60,000. Israeli officials predict the number will reach 100,000 by 1987, if not sooner, and by the year 2010, they say, the West Bank will contain 1.4 million Jews and 1.6 million Arabs."
-Time Magazine report, January 1983

2010 will arrive in seven months, at which time there will be a little less than 300,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria. This is a significant increase from the Jewish population of less than 30,000 in 1983, but nowhere near the prediction of 1.4 million. As a result, the population in Judea and Samaria remains overwhelmingly Arab, and despite all efforts, the international community has not budged from its position that these areas should belong to the Palestinians.

What happened? Why has Jewish population growth been relatively modest? The 1.4 million projection was inherently unrealistic and farfetched, but couldn't there have been, say, 700,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria?

The biggest impediment to settlement growth is something that is never mentioned: That most Yesha communities were led by dati leumi (national religious) Jews, who wanted like-minded people in their communities. The result has, for the most part, been homogeneous small towns. Secular or traditional Israeli Jews quickly learned that they need not apply for admission.

It is hardly a coincidence that "mixed" settlements tend, overall, to be much more heavily populated than strictly religious ones. Thus, a town like Ariel, relatively distant from the Green Line, developed into one of the largest Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

The Oslo process and terrorism did much to curtail settlement growth, but the apathetic response of many Israelis to the resulting suffering within Judea and Samara communities did not occur in a vacuum. The religious nature of most settlements resulted in a majority of non-religious Israelis feeling little identification with Yesha. Unlike the religious, they did not have family and close friends there. They never visited. They did not know people who were murdered there, and they certainly did not feel stung by political pressure aimed at marginalizing those areas. Prime Minister Rabin could even declare that he is prime minister of 97 percent of the people.

The mistakes of the past cannot be undone. Even if they were to change their policies, Gush Emunim settlements could not today attract those with different levels of observance, let alone different political and religious ideologies.

What can be changed are the sentiments of Israelis toward settlement in Judea and Samaria. Today, there are passionate supporters and passionate opponents of settlement. The silent majority of Israelis sits in the middle. It would dismantle settlements in a peace agreement, but would prefer to retain as many as possible. It does not really identify with residents of Judea and Samaria, but does not want that population to be harmed.

The middle, however, has slowly shifted left. This is why a Likud government would try (though Obama will not allow it to succeed) to reach understandings with a hostile U.S. government on limits to construction in Judea and Samaria.

The battle for the future of Judea and Samaria is not a battle of hilltops but a battle of ideas. If those who support what remains of Yesha can persuade a majority of Israelis that their way is right, then the U.S. will be unable to impose a pretend peace that destroys almost all of what's left of Yesha. If they fail to do so, their towns could disappear no less quickly than those in Gaza and northern Samaria did in 2005 and those in Sinai did in 1982.

Alas, the battle of ideas has been fought by only one side. The ideas that side presents are baseless, in sharp contradiction to reality, geography and common sense. But most passionate supporters of Yesha are still engaged in a battle for hilltops. Last week's conference organized by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, presenting alternatives to a "two-state solution," is a belated but welcome step in the right direction.