Tuesday, March 16, 2010
While the world appears to treat every Jewish neighborhood outside the 1967 green line as a settlement, settlements are not in fact a unified term. The Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo that is now in question is not a settlement. I don't know any Israeli who considers it as such. It is part of the Jerusalem municipality. There are large settlement blocs (Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel) that all agree will have to become part of Israel proper in any deal with the Palestinians. There are just far too many people who live there to withdraw. The pain (and continued price) of the Gaza withdrawal is not some distant memory. As I have stated before, the issue, at least from the Israeli side, is not Ramat Shlomo or Maale Adumim but those settlements that are geographically and ideologically isolated. These should be withdrawn for Israel's sake. The practical costs of supporting them are too much for Israel to bear. Even more important are the ideological issues. Many of these settlers represent dangerous anti-democratic leanings, where for example their rabbi holds more authority than their commanding officer. For Israel to continue as a Jewish and democratic state it must divorce itself from this growing ideology where the land (and even religion) has become more holy than people. I love the land of Israel and I love my Judaism but in a modern state these are not more important than democratic principles. It is in these isolated places, to borrow Tom Friedman's analogy, where we have become intoxicated, in particular with the land of Israel and the biblical vision of it. These isolated settlements have become ideological islands. Surrounded only by those who share the same ideas, these settlers are no longer nurtured by the democratic foundations of modern Israel. These settlers need to return to the cities and towns of modern Israel, and live with those with whom they fundamentally disagree, in order to help create a pluralism that Israel so desperately needs. For the sake of our souls we must let go of even those places that hold power over our Jewish hearts. For more reading on the week's events see Barry Rubin's op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, as well as Dan Raviv's column on CBSNews.com. And for a daily synopsis of the news see the DailyAlert prepared by the Conference of Presidents.