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Israel's spectacular suicide

by Ari Shavit             Haaretz            13 June 2013

New construction in Judea and Samaria is now proceeding at the highest pace in seven years. If this continues, the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett government will put an end to the two-state solution, the Jewish democratic entity, and the Zionist dream.

Gush Etzion - AP - Sept. 9, 2010.
Construction work in Elazar, a settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc, in July 2010  Photo by AP.                                                                                      
Few people paid attention to the news that during the first quarter of 2013, there were 865 housing starts in the settlements. That was a 176 percent increase over the parallel quarter last year and a 355 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2012. Although settlers are only four out of every 100 Israelis, of every 100 housing starts this year, 8.5 were in the settlements. While in sovereign Israel the scope of new construction is slowing, new construction in Judea and Samaria is now proceeding at the highest pace in seven years.

The trend is clear: Within a short time the number of settlers will increase dramatically, as will their ability to block any attempt to divide the land. If it continues this way, the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett government will put an end to the two-state solution, the Jewish democratic entity, and the Zionist dream.

This is not a question of peace. In the coming years there will be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Nor is it a question of total and immediate withdrawal. In the coming years Israel will not be able to hand over the West Bank to the Palestinians in the same hasty way it gave them the Gaza Strip. But it is a question of survival. Will Israel, at the last minute, stop flooding the occupied territories with settlers? Will the Zionist enterprise retain the option of going back to being a moral enterprise? Will the Jewish state choose life, or become unwittingly dissolved in an occupation that is becoming eternal?

As of now the answers are clear: No, no, and no. The Likud of Danny Danon prefers the Land of Israel over the State of Israel. Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi ‏(“The Jewish Home”‏) is determined to drown the Jewish national home in the swamps of colonial decay. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid ‏(“There is a future”‏) is turning out to be the party of opportunistic ambiguity, turning its back on the Zionist future. It’s just as Labor chairman Shelly Yacimovich said last week in the Knesset, that the national camp of Labor-Meretz-Kadima is now sitting in the opposition, while it’s the government of right-right-right that is on the verge of establishing a binational reality that will be irreparable.

From the settlers’ perspective, everything’s fine. Their situation has never been so comfortable. The international community is slowly internalizing the fact that the fundamental problem in the Middle East is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the pathological political culture of the Arab world. The United States and Europe are too tired to confront the intense determination of the heirs of Gush Emunim. Israel can sell a navigation app for a billion dollars at the same time that it has lost its way. Right now there is no power within Israel, nor any power outside Israel, that can force Israel to save itself from its settlers. The most important minister in the government − Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel − can continue the momentum that began in the first quarter of the year. The government of no future will allow him to continue to break records in settling Judea and Samaria. While 20 ministers are engaged with all sorts of nonsense, the housing minister is burying Zionism in the hills.

Thus, from the Israelis’ perspective things are not good. They are not good at all. True, soon there will be a budget and soon there will a “sharing of the burden,” and it’s going to be a great summer. The restaurants along the coast will be full and the nightclubs will be full and Tel Aviv will be as lively as ever. But the fact that in 2013 Israelis still haven’t found a sane political party that will protect them sanely from the settlements, means that even as they are partying, they are dying. Even as they are winning, they are committing suicide. This country has, in the past, seen a few group suicides. But never has it seen a suicide so spectacular and so sweet and so unnecessary as the quiet suicide it is committing now.