Don’t settle for settlement condition

Settlements are not the main obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace

Last week, the United States vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements as illegal, and rightly so. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are by no means the main obstacle to peace, and peace can only be achieved as soon as a genuine and willing partner takes Israel’s outstretched hand. It is important that the Obama administration continues to correctly pursue a foreign policy that allows Israel to negotiate a peace agreement for herself.

No Palestinian-Arab state ever existed in what was coined the “West Bank” by Jordan in 1950. For thousands of years the area was widely known as Judea and Samaria, and is not separated from Israel by any internationally recognized border. Although not given entirely to Israel as part of the 1947 Partition Plan, Israel came to acquire the West Bank from Jordan while fighting in self-defense during the war of 1967. The “Six Day War” began after Nasser took aggressive action against Israel by amassing troops on Israel’s border and closing the Straits of Tiran, and the West Bank ended up in Israel’s possession as a result of swift military victory. Today, Israeli settlements are only built on 1.7 percent of the land in the West Bank, and 98 percent of Palestinians living there are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel’s.

The term “settlement” itself is misleading, as it connotes makeshift huts and dilapidated tents. On the contrary, many Israeli towns in the West Bank, such as Ma’ale Adumim, have a population upwards of 30,000. The number of authorized Israeli neighborhoods in the West Bank has not increased since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, although their population has naturally grown over time.

What the United States and the global community needs to appreciate is that Israeli communities in the West Bank are not the obstacle to peace, as can be seen repeatedly throughout history. For instance, settlements were not even a conceivable issue when five Arab armies attacked the newborn state of Israel in 1948, and Hamas still showers Israel indiscriminately with thousands of rockets despite Israel’s pullout from Gaza in 2005. On the other hand, Jordan and Israel were able to reach a peace agreement in 1994, despite ongoing settlement construction. Clearly, peace is not contingent on settlements, and should therefore not be made into a negotiating condition.

The international community must stop using Israeli towns in the West Bank — land that everyone seems to have forgotten was won by Israel in a defensive war — as the primary gauge for peace. In order for long-lasting and meaningful peace to occur, Israel’s neighbors need to recognize her right to exist and not see Israel as a temporary problem to be done away with. The West Bank is currently in a period of growth and success, and Israel would like nothing more than to help facilitate Palestinian prosperity. However, Israel must ensure that her security needs are met and that her kindergartens are not at risk of mortar attack; the only way to guarantee this is to allow Israel to make peace as an independent and sovereign country and to not impose arbitrary negotiating conditions upon her.

Rachel Bandler is President of MIT Students for Israel and a member of the Class of 2013.

kathy elliott about 10 years ago

Settlements are in violation of international law. Now half a million Israelis live in the west bank on land they have stolen from the people they occupy.

Of course it is an obstacle to peace to keep stealing land-and since Israel has one of the mightiest armies in the world and those they occupy (the Palestinians) dont have a tank, I guess Israel can continue to break the law they signed as the Palestinians are left watching their land disappear as well as their freedom--they might have a minimal government in some locations-but they are under a brutal Israeli occupation.

Richard Khoury about 10 years ago

Rachel Bandlers "opinion arguing that Israeli sponsored Jewish-only settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories are by no means the obstacle to peace is the same defective rational that has been parroted ad nauseam by Israeli supporters and lobbyists for decades in defiance of international law, the will of the world community, and stated policy of the United States for the same period of time.

No amount of circuitous language or wishful thinking can change that fact.

In simple terms, there is a dispute over the land. And as an illustration, if the dispute was over a sandwich, and one party unilaterally proceeds to consume the sandwich as a tactic of negotiation, there eventually is nothing for the second party to negotiate about.

Through financial aid, military grants and political cover, the United States enables Israel to act in bad faith, and tarnishes American prestige throughout the world.

machinedog about 10 years ago

The pre-67 borders weren't borders,they

were the cease fire lines of '48. It's

the same war and the Arabs lost. That's

all that happened: THEY LOST.

Richard Khoury about 10 years ago


There you go, clarifying inexplicable Israeli behavior with smoke and mirrors: "The pre-67 borders weren't borders...they were cease-fire lines of '48."

While that may be true, it is also true that Israel never existed as a recognized state before the cease-fire lines of '48.

So following Ms. Bandler's convoluted logic into oblivion, changing tack on a whim, what you are saying is "might makes right."

That being the case, don't whine if Israel's opponents use the same strategy that you condone to obtain the property Israel has ruthlessly expropriated over the last 60 years.

W.C. about 10 years ago

"That being the case, don't whine if Israel's opponents use the same strategy that you condone to obtain the property Israel has ruthlessly expropriated over the last 60 years."

Israel has expropriated no property. Arabs living in Israel enjoy the same rights as all Israeli citizens.

"Through financial aid, military grants and political cover, the United States enables Israel to act in bad faith, and tarnishes American prestige throughout the world."

American prestige would be tarnished if it turned its back on a key Middle Eastern ally. Weakness is provocation. It emboldens our enemies. Suing for peace from a position of weakness does not command respect, it invites contempt.

shell about 10 years ago

I love Richrd Khoury's 'sandwich' example, though its incredibly simplistic:

Its more like one party not being hungry and not wanting their stale bread until the other party takes it, toasts it and puts lots of garnish on it, and then the first party is suddenly interested - not because they are hungry, but simply cos they don't want the other party to eat.

Stan about 10 years ago

Well said Ms Bandler. In regards to the above comments made, the settlements are legal. In Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, Deportations, Transfers, Evacuations was intended to prevent the forcible transfer of civilians which has not happened in this situation. Also, UN Resolution 242 does not call for Israel to withdraw from ALL territories.

I suggest some of you do a bit of research before you mislead people with your ignorant views

David Guy about 10 years ago

The preaching of hatred by Arabs to their children of the Jew, is the major obstacle to peace in the Middle East but the unquestioning acceptance of that hatred by Western supporters must be in the running for second place.

Sergio about 10 years ago


Thats all, in a nutshell.

Yonatan Kaplan about 10 years ago

What Ms. Kathy and Mr.Khoury fail to realize is that this article does not condone building new settlements, in fact it states that no new settlements have been constructed since the Oslo accords.

The entire premise of this article is to point out that settlements are a stalling tactic used by the Palestinian Authority to delay the inevitability of a lasting peace agreement.

Ms. Bandler's presents a very straightforward, factually based logical argument: Settlements are not the obstacle to peace, because peace has been made several times despite the existence of settlements.

The only smoke and mirrors going on here, Mr. Khoury, aside from you misquoting Ms. Bandler, is the illusion that settlements are what is holding up negotiations.

The fact is that the Palestinians are not ready for a peace agreement. If you've read the palileaks documents, you'll find that what Palestinian negotiators say behind closed doors is a very different narrative than what they present to the people they supposedly represent.

The real obstacle to peace is the unwillingness of the Palestinians to swallow their spiteful hate, and come to the negotiating table with an honest effort to seal a lasting, mutually beneficial peace agreement.

Harry about 10 years ago

Had the Muslim world ever been interested in peace with Israel, they never would have attacked Israel immediately upon its declaration of statehood. And don't forget, Muslims were massacring Jews long before 1948. The complaint over "settlements" is just the latest Palestinian ploy in avoiding peace with Israel.

Michael LeFavour about 10 years ago

Richard and Kathy, if you believe that Israel is in the possession of another sovereign states land then please share with us the name of that state.

J. Lapides about 10 years ago

Israel did not steal the west bank. It fought against two arab armies in 1967, which attacked Israel. They lost and the land of Judea and Samaria was returned to the original people, Israelies.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

Harry please read some history. Hagana and Lehi were terrorizing Palestinians and British before 1948, read about the massacres that happened, just google "Jewish terrorism".

Anonymous about 10 years ago

Yonatan Kaplan,

On the contrary, the recently leaked documents, especially those of the meeting minutes of the closed-door negotiations between the PA and Israel show how far the PA was willing to bend over backwards while Israel continuously declined the PA's outstretched hand for peace. It is true that "what Palestinian negotiators say behind closed doors is a very different narrative than what they present to the people they supposedly represent." In fact, how far the PA is willing to compromise is even highly questionable to its loyalty to the basic rights of the Palestinians who it represents. I suggest you give those documents another look.

Yonatan Kaplan about 10 years ago

Mr. Anonymous,

The Palestinians refuse to negotiate, they have repeatedly failed to make any serious efforts at building a lasting peace. Their decisions are held hostage by the image of recalcitrant anti-Israel Jihadists that they are so desperate to uphold for the benefit of Iranian support even at the expense of their children. Every time it seems that negotiations are going well and an agreement is about to be reached, in 1991 with Rabin, 1993 the Oslo accords, 2000 Camp David, 2003 Olmert's offer to Abbas conceding 90 of the Palestinian's demands, 2005 with the withdrawal from Gaza, the Palestinian response has been to refuse the offer, leave the table, and respond in kind with two intifadas and over 10,000 rocket attacks. Those are not the actions of a partner in peace. Those are the actions of recalcitrant terrorists.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

Dude do you know know that an Israeli assassinated Rabin to stop him from signing the peace treaty? Do you not know that what started the 2000 Intifiada is Ehud Barak's provocative entrance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque? You call Palestinians terrorists? What do you call Israeli jet fighters who kill off families at the convenience of pressing a button? Go live in the West Bank for a week or two, get in touch with reality, then try to form an opinion. From what it sounds, you have no clue what is going on in that region.

And what Iranian support? You know nothing can go into the West Bank without going through Israeli borders? If you were to say Egyptian support I might have considered that because of the previously existing tunnels to Gaza, but Iran? Go read a book before you offend someone's identity.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

W.C., I'm afraid you're wrong, I'm a living example, reply back here and I'll be happy to meet up with you and share my experiences with you. You should also know that Israel squeezed out 20 free f22 raptors from the US, one of the most expensive jet fighters, during this economy crisis for freezing the settlement building, what do you think of Israel backing up their ally here?

Shell, Palestinians fought for their land long before Israel turned it into the wonders that it is now. Unfortunately, as well as creating beautiful landscapes, Israel is also building an apartheid separation wall, you're surprised Palestinians don't like that?

Stan, the fact that the UN article 242 did not require Israel to withdraw from all territory does not mean that the rest of the settlements were legalized. And tell me, did Israel withdraw from those territories stated in that article? No they it did not.

David Guy, you think Israelis don't teach their kids the same? Well anyway, you should that I'm a Palestinian Arab who has as many Israeli best friends as I have Arabs. Open your eyes and try to talk to the other side.

Michael, so it's OK to massacre people and take their land(as happened in 1948) if their country wasn't yet recognized by the entire world? They still lived there. Make better arguments please, that statement is purely inhuman, earth is not ruled by the book of the jungle.

Lapides, you're right, Israelis lived there for thousands of years, but so did Arabs. They lived together even under the British mandate, until the Palestinians had to pay for Germany's horrible acts.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

W.C., one more thing to add: you should know that Christian Russians who happen to have one Jewish ancestor and have spent only their recent years in Israel enjoy a better life than the likes of myself, people who were born and raised there, do. However, you should also know that I have many such friends, and I do no have any problem with the injustice caused by politics, I hate politics. But what I do have a problem with is that you do not seem to know the ugly facts, and you make such strong statements, so hopefully this piece of information gives you some perspective.

Yonatan Kaplan about 10 years ago


It is clear to anyone reading your rambling tirade that your argument is based on passing personal opinion as fact, removing historical events from context, and drawing erroneous correlations between unrelated events. One insane Israeli murdered Rabin, but the entire country still mourns his passing today. In the Palestinian territories, its not the peacemakers who are mourned, its the mass murderers who are glorified and given days of memorial.

You say the suicide bombings that killed hundreds and terrorized thousands is justified because an Jew stepped foot on an Islamic holy site, that also happens to be the location of the holiest site in Judaism. There would be no need for a separation barrier (3 of which is wall) if it hadn't proven 99 effective against preventing suicide bombings. Would an apartheid state allow their holiest site to be governed by such a people who encourage murder to foreigners entering their mosques? Does an apartheid state grant full rights to people of all races and religions? I'm sure many South Africans find it offensive how you trivialize their suffering by comparing the democratic, free state of Israel to the deeply segregated Apartheid South Africa.

Also if you think Palestinians cared about national identity of even knew that they were Palestinians before 1967 when the term was coined you need to brush up on your history. Furthermore if you think everything was hunkydory between Jews and Arabs in Israel before 1948 when 5 Arab nations simultaneously attacked the new, barely organized country home to thousands of holocaust scarred refugees, teenagers and the elderly, then once again, I suggest you read your history.

If you think Iran has nothing to do with the terrorist organization Hamas, you are both blind and deaf to the reality of the situation. I was just in the West Bank not two years ago, so please don't try to tell me I don't understand the reality on the ground.

Nobody claims that the current situation is ideal or desirable, but until the Palestinians can break from the influence of tyrannical Arab regimes and move towards self improvement in a mutually beneficial peace agreement with Israel, then the situation will remain undesirable.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago


I never compared South Africa with Israel. And unfortunately I couldn't read those posts without getting offended, hence what I wrote might seem emotional, but it is very factual. And speaking of assassinations, Israel just practically had a laugh at its own allies (England) when they faked the passport for the Dubai covert. So Israel will do whatever it takes to get what they want. The fact that Israel mourned the death of the only prime minister willing to sign a dignifying peace treaty does not negate the fact that never since has there ever been another cooperative Israeli prime minister.

Palestinians also mourn martyr's who died unarmed in masses. There was never a demonstration for the death of a suicide bomber.

Regarding the second Intifada, I did not say that the killings were OK, don't put words in my mouth. However, they didn't just happen over night, there was retaliation from both sides that ended up with that final number. Israel killed its fair share of unarmed Palestinians during that period, don't overlook that fact please.

The term Palestinians was not coined in 1967. You can research Al-Husseine, Al-Khalidi and Al-Nashashibi families that interchangeably represented the Palestinian people ever since the Ottoman Empire. It's offensive to tell people to 'brush up on their history' when you obviously do not know yours, you are under an illusion if you think the Palestinian identity did not exist before 1967.

I did not say everything was hunkydory between Jews and Arabs before 1948, I meant up to the point of the Ottoman empire, please read my comments more closely before being offensive. You should know that as well as the Jews fleeing to this area because of the inhuman holocaust, some of them had to flee because of Zionist attacks in Arabic countries such as Iraq - the Zionist attacks caused the Arabs to kick all the local Jews out, and where-to but Israel?

Read 'The Jews of Iraq' by Shenhav before you misunderstand my point.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

To add, Kaplan, you are incorrect if you are saying Iran is still supporting Hamas. They would like to, I don't disagree with that, but they simply cannot. If you truly went through all the checkpoints leading to the West Bank, you'd know nothing goes through without Israel's notice. Not to mention that Hamas is in Gaza now, which is under even more restrictions.

Palestinians do have a cooperative government. Asking to stop settlement building is only their right out of international law, whatever the government was. After all, Hamas was overthrown is the West Bank, why is the wall still being built?

Finally, just like Israel accepted the UN Resolution of 1947, they should accept the UN condemnation of the settlements.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

One more thing Kaplan, if you're going to tell me to brush up on my history, then why don't you show me where you get your facts from? Palestinian identity non-existent before 1967 is an example. I named my sources, and would happy to give you some more if you're still skeptical.

Anyway, I would actually love to read any source you might have for me, I am not against anybody's opinion. All I did here is clarify and document certain misunderstood facts. I know that my comments a few days ago were very emotionally engaged, and I am sorry if I offended anyone. However, I am a Palestinian after all, and some of the comments were either plain incorrect or inhuman. So please do not disregard my facts for the impulse I had.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

Anyway, I wrote an article to discuss the claims in this article. You can read it here http:tech.mit.eduV131N11wissam.html

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

Seems like links are not displayed well here. The article is titled 'View from the other side of the Wall' on today's issue.

Regarding the 1.7 figure in Rachel's article, it does not represent the entire land under settlement control. It also doesn't take into account the restricted areas between settlements (restricted to Palestinians). btselem.org offers recent figures for that. You can also read the first portion of my article for further sources that clarify this figure.

Dan about 10 years ago

Wissam Jarjoui is very funny, misses up the dates, the names and the apples with oranges. Good, as long as the other side leaders and supporters are of such low level Israel will prevail! Ehud Barak on the temple mountain? It was Sharon and he didn't enter the mosque, he is Jewish not Muslim. Assasination prevented Rabin from sighning a peace treaty? It was already sighned and violated 2 years earlier... Man go read some books. Long live the Palestinian in particular and Arabic in general education :)

Dan about 10 years ago

Wissan: "There was never a demonstration for the death of a suicide bomber." O! That is so funny :) and who was dancing on roofs of their houses at 911? Wissan will say Jews... he will be right, because what he says is true, always true, only because he says that. So what's the reason to argue with liars like him?

Dan about 10 years ago

O and Wissam. mentioning the Al-Husseine family in your comments, please don't forget commemorate the great job (family member, serving as the great Mufty of Jerusalem) on creating the Muslim divisions during the WWII. A, sorry they fought for the Nazi Germany, right?

Anonymous about 10 years ago

I agree. Wissam, you look foolish with your lies.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago


Regarding Al-Husseine. You are right about what he did. The point was to demonstrate that the Palestinian identity existed from long ago. The fact that many times their decisions were a shame is not incorrect, but Israel has done the same (maybe not aiding Nazi Germany, but pretty much also carrying out mass massacres, Sabra and Shatila for example, authorized by Sharon himself).

You're right, I did confuse the names, thanks for correcting me. The facts don't change however, police brutality during and before that visit led to the Intifiada.

Regarding 911, much of the Palestinian population was under Israel's oppression at the time, with the US as it is biggest supporter of weapons. Maybe they did have demonstrations, but they're not the ones driving tanks against unarmed civilians as Israel does. If you are trying to argue that Palestinians are more violent or inhuman than Israelis, I'm afraid this would be a waste of time.

Are you implying Palestinians violated the 1993 treaty? Show me some sources on when they did that, and that Israel didn't do it first.

Dan about 10 years ago

Here we go again, it's kinda fun now, you are very easy.....(see the other comment about education).

1. Can you please name one Jew that was present in Sabra and Shatila during the massacre? Who performed the massacre if not the Christiane falanga? It was their reaction to Damour massacre performed by Palestinians earlier, which was a reaction to xxx massacre performed by falangs earlier, which was.... come on, all your history is history of massacre, stop already.

2. Why did El-Huseini did not declare the Palestinian state in 48,49,50,51? Why, he wasn't even punished for thousands of Jews, Serbian, Gypsies and others massacred by his Nazi troupes in Europe. (please see my advice 1 from the other article).

3. Yes I'm right you confuse the names. You confuse the dates, the places, the nationality of the performers of the Sabra and Shatila massacre and much more.

4. I'm did not say that Palestinians are more violent than others, I just mentioned that Palestinians were dancing on roofs at 9.11. You agree, great, should we paste here some youtube links?

5. I can bring many many sources, you would not believe them anyway, so I'll let hundreds of children and women massacared by Palestinians in buses and market explosions to be my source and proof and justification.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

You're putting words in my mouth, I said "authorized" not "carried out". Are you also going to forget about massacres by Irgun and Lehi now?

In 1948, the Palestinians did not agree to the UN resolution. Jews at that time did not own 50 of the land that was given to them. Anyone who knows the facts knows it was not a fair deal at the time, hence they did not declare the country.

Everyone involved in the Holocaust paid for what they did, and deservedly so. But, if you have proof that more people were involved but didn't pay for it, I'll be the first to stand by your side to convict them.

Cool, so you also agree Israelis are violent towards Palestinians. That's all I wanted.

Whether you think I'll believe such sources or not is irrelevant as long as you do not prove your claims that Palestinians broke the treaty before Israel.

Wissam Jarjoui about 10 years ago

And if I confused Sharon for Barak (who was PM at the time) only means I'm human. You say I confused dates, please mention them and if I'm truly incorrect I'll gladly agree with you.