All of Israel’s public officials come out to oppose a ban on all construction in the West Bank, saying that “natural growth” must be permitted. Even if they agree that “illegal outposts” should be dismantled (and obviously all don’t seem to agree on even that, or if they do, they agree “in principle” but not enough to do much about it on the ground).
I don’t understand it.
Earlier this week, Montgomery County, Maryland, announced a ban on residential construction within the areas served by several high schools, saying that the schools could not take increased population caused by new developments. No one objected and said that “natural growth” must be permitted. In fact, throughout the Washington metropolitan area, the anti-growth forces are usually the more powerful. So, to me, the concept of “natural growth” is neither a given, nor a necessity.
On Sunday, I heard on C-Span radio, an interview with Jonathan Schanzer on his new book, Fatah vs. Hamas: the Struggle for Palestine. It was a fascinating interview, in which Schanzer claimed that the only battle in the Middle East was not between Jews and Arabs, but that within the Palestinian population, the battle between Fatah and Hamas was equally virulent. He had many examples of violence and intolerance between the two factions. And he concluded that until the Palestinians get their act together, any attempt as an Israeli-Palestinian peace is doomed to failure.
He was pretty convincing, but I thought: isn’t the same true with regard to the Israelis? And then I discovered, by chance, Matt Rees’ book of a few years ago, Cain’s Field, where he examines the same phenomenon, but looks at both with the Palestinian population and the Israeli population, and finds them very similar.
My guess is that both books are worth reading with care. Your conclusion might be that, as long as things are as factionalized as they are, the infighting limits the ability of any party either to obtain peace, or even to want peace. There are too many unfought battles looming.
This is why international help is needed in the area. From the Arab League, the United States, Europe, and the United Nations.
I agree that “natural growth” should not be an excuse to keep building. Of course, the larger urban developments in the West Bank would most likely be incorporated into Israel if there is ever a peace treaty. But, just like in Montgomery County, no one (except perhaps some real estate interests) will be hurt by a building moratorium in the interim.
There will be struggles ahead, within Palestine and within Israel, as well as between them. A few years ago, Motti Lerner’s play “Pangs of the Messiah” was staged at Theater J in Washington. The peace treaty had been reached, but the most radical of the settlers had not capitulated, familes were torn apart in their thinking, and then the unthinkable happened. Pray that it will not be so.