Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
Town Hall Meetings Transcripts
Conversation with Professor Ian Lustick
Recorded June 6, 2003
STEVE MASTERS: Good evening everybody, I'm Steve Masters calling in from Philadelphia, and I'm very pleased to moderate this virtual town hall with one of our Philadelphia treasures, Professor Ian Lustick. Ian is the Merriam Term Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. And he is the founder and past president of the Association for Israel Studies.
He's the former president of the Politics and History section of the American Political Science Association. And he currently serves as associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for the study of Ethno-Political conflict. In 1979 and 1980, Professor Lustick worked at the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research as a Council of Foreign Relations Fellow. He was responsible for analyzing Israel-West Bank affairs. He is the author of several books, most notably, for our purposes: For the Land and The Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel and Unsettled States: Disputed Lands. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, including Tikkun, Foreign Affairs, and the American Political Science Review.
MASTERS: It's been quite an eventful few days, as we all know, on this conflict, and I'm very much looking forward to what Professor Lustick has to say. So Professor Lustick, it's all yours.
IAN LUSTICK: Thank you very much Steve, I'm delighted to be with everybody in this way, and look forward to hearing from you in the question period. I'd like to start by offering some historical, political, [and] ideological context for the settlement issue and then to go into the phases that it went through, and then assess the current situation as I see it. One of the great ironies of the settlement movement in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 is a kind of ironic reversal in the classical period of Zionism, or at least the pre-state period, there was a division between those who called themselves practical Zionists and those who called themselves political Zionists.
And the practical Zionists: Practical Zionists were associated with people like Ben-Gurion and others who believed that the way that you would bring the state is to go into the country and by hook or by crook really, and not worrying too much about what was legal, simply establish settlements, outposts, watchtowers, stockades, whatever you could do, wherever you could do it, by one dunam, by one goat at a time-it would build the Jewish state.
The opposite view, competing view, was held by people like Herzl, Jabotinsky of the Revisionist Movement, people who believed, and mostly on the right, and that what's ironic about it, mostly who believed that it wasn't proper to accomplish Jewish statehood through illegal means, or through small, dirty little actions that might cumulatively have some effect, but were not coming about as part as a result of some grand plan with the backing of the entire world order behind it.
Herzl, Jabotinsky and others wanted the world to grant Zionism an official charter and an official legal right to establish all of the land of Israel as a Jewish State. Herzl traveled from capitol to capitol to try and get this. Jabotinsky pressed the British constantly to honor what he thought their commitment was to create a Jewish state and to help Jews create one without the necessity to build it up from the bottom. To move into the area with a large army at the beginning, and either conquer it or set up the necessary infrastructure for a state with the official and active participation of the World community.
What we have seen since 1967 is that the very practical aspects of Zionism that the left traditionally used in the early 20th century, and the late 19th century to establish settlements here and there and create facts, which was I remind everybody was originally a Labor Zionist idea: create facts on the ground.
That this technique which was made fun of by the right has been adopted since 1967 and especially since the early 70s by Gush Emunim the Block of the Faithful, that group that represents fundamentalist redemptive Zionism, redemptionist Zionism. I would prefer to think of it as Fundamentalist Judaism of a messianic variety. They had the idea of creating facts that would force not the British or the world community to recognize Jewish sovereignty eventually in Palestine, but to force a reluctant population of Israel and reluctant future governments of Israel to acknowledge and protect, safeguard Jewish sovereignty through the whole land of Israel that was being settled. So there's really been a tactical reversal and a polemical reversal, that for historians, at least, has a certain irony in it, a cruel irony I think for anyone on the left when they hear slogans that were used by the left, slogans used now more successfully by the right and those protesting about what is legal and illegal and hanging their hat on that principle are actually using principles that Jabotinsky was much more comfortable with in the pre-state period. Jabotinsky was of course being the founder of the revisionist movement in Zionism, that is, the ancestor of Herut, and now Likud.
Now let's take a look at the practical aspects of the settlements themselves. We have a situation right now in which approximately $450 million is being spent by Israel on the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza every year. That does not count expenses for security, which are surely very large. So we're talking, ever since 1967, of a massive massive investment by governments in Israel of well over $10 billion. In my estimation, and I would say in the estimation of most serious observers, the settlement movement, at least since the mid 1970s and the existence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, is the single largest political obstacle to peace, and political obstacle to the ability of the sides, or those on each side who would like to get to a two-state solution to actually get there.
To give you a little more idea of the size of this settlement movement, we can note that right now there are about 220,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, that's not including about the same number of Jews who are living in neighborhoods in expanded East Jerusalem, that inhabit, really, parts of the West Bank. It would appear to me that most of those areas will be included in Israel when the two-state solution does crystallize. So when we are talking about West Bank and Gaza now, at least for my purposes, in this conversation, we're talking about the area in which there are 220,000 settlers with about 17,000 being added per year, almost all now, as a result of natural increase. Our numbers are not great, because it is very hard to track movement out of the settlements, though I will say a little bit about that later. There's also another 15,000-17,000 settlers in the Golan, the 220,000, I think, includes only about 5500-7000 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip.
We can get another sense of just how massive this investment has been by understanding that in the Rabin government, in 1992, a plan was developed to compensate the Jewish settlers on the Golan Heights, when their would be an agreement with Israel and Syria that would entail Israeli withdrawal from Golan. That plan was called Operation Mango. Interestingly enough, that plan was not discarded when the Netanyahu government came into power. I do believe that Netanyahu government was ready to strike a deal with Syria of some sort, and they maintained this plan on hold. The interesting thing about the plan is that it provided for $13 billion in compensation for just 15,000 settlers to be relocated from the Golan. Now at that rate, we're talking about a truly astronomical amount of money if that's how generous compensation for Jewish settlers in the territories now would be. I'm not saying it would have to be that large by any means, but we're talking about the size of the investment that the Rabin and Netanyahu government at least thought would be necessary.
Now politically, of course, these settlements have been not only a source of provocation to the Palestinians, a way of separating them for their lands, of discouraging them from thinking of their areas as theirs. Not only all of that, and not only a source of votes for the right wing parties in Israel and religious parties, but they've also been hothouses for the development of very extreme, illegal ideologies and fundamentalist views, and its, of course, no surprise. I certainly anticipated this in my two books that were mentioned earlier, that the assassin of Rabin Yigal Amir was groomed from the same groups that produced the settlements, numerous attacks on Arabs--murderous attacks-including, of course, the massacre of Hebron by Goldstein, and also attacks on the Temple Mount, attacks to destroy the Muslim shrines there, headed by people like Yehudah Etzion leading ideologues within the settlement movement. These settlements have been a place where very extreme views get normalized, where organizations that are armed are dangerous, extremely committed, well organized, well financed, well connected with larger groups inside of Israel have been able to develop.
Much of that you're probably familiar with. I'd like go to now to look a little more closely at the phases the settlement movement has gone through. The first phase, right after the 1967 war, was a phase in which the settlement movements that were controlled by the Labor movement, the Kibbutz Movement, the Moshav Movement, that were so proud of what they had done in the pre-state period, [they] had by 1967 had found themselves almost without a mission. Suddenly, after the 1967 war, vistas of active heroic work were opened before them. Many of those activists, even those who didn't got into the whole Land of Israel Movement, immediately decided to declare a commitment to incorporate the whole of the West Bank and Gaza into a sovereign Israel. Even aside from those, there was great excitement among the Kibbutz and Moshav Movements that here was an opportunity to do again what had created the aura of heroism around them before. And particularly therefore, you saw small settlements created by Labor governments in the Jordan valley where it was deemed to be important for security purposes to have a belt of settlements their. In Gush Etzion where Jews had had settlements, destroyed during the 1948 war.
Some of these settlements that were created out of nostalgia, or a rather naive and soon to be overthrown idea that they were of security significance, were also justified by Labor governments seeking to find a reason to justify them that they could be bargaining chips in the future, so they would have something to bargain with in negotiations with the Arabs.
I do think from those initial settlements came the idea of the Alon Plan, a division of the West Bank that would include the Jordan Valley in Israel's hands. That didn't last very long, because right wing groups saw their day had arrived after the 1967 war, saw their claim to fame, the idea of the whole land of Israel, and not just the weirdly shaped piece of Western Eretz Israel would be the Jewish state that had been consigned to the dustbin of history it seemed in the 50s and 60s. And now the idea of a whole land of Israel was available for redemption had invigorated them. Whether you were a secular militarist Zionist or a religious messianic Zionist, or a revisionist associated with Herut, your slogans started to sound inspiring. These folks went into places like Sebastia in 1974-75 and even earlier into Hebron, Rabbi Levinger in 1968-69. Taking these illegal actions. Taking over the Park hotel, repeatedly infiltrating into Sebastia, being evacuated by the Army repeatedly. And finally being granted the right by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin to remain in that area, and really start the whole network of Gush Emunim settlements, highly ideological groups that first were created on Chanukah at the end of 1974.
I would like to make one comment on the idea that these settlements were for security purposes, two comments really. One is that the idea that these settlements in the Jordan valley would be of security significance was shown to be full of hot air, when a serious study was done by Ayesh Halev of exactly how Israel would be defended from an attack coming from the East, and he pointed out that the key element would be covering fire over the Jordan Valley from the hills in the West Bank. And what was really necessary was to control those hills, that the first thing that would have to be done would be the evacuation of those Settlements in the Jordan Valley, because the Jordan Valley would be a free-fire zone, a killing zone for army units trying to cross the Jordan, trying to enter the West Bank.
In fact, that analysis proved to be true in the Yom Kippur war in 1973, when Syrian tanks and huge armored formations attacked the Golan Heights, they knew that the settlements, far from being an obstacle, were precisely the areas in the Golan Heights that were not mined. Therefore the formations from the Syrian army used the settlements as entry points. Not only was that a problem, but during the first day of fighting and later, the settlers living in those settlements, knowing that if they were evacuated in the midst of the fighting that it would be known later that the settlements were not of security significance and they would lose their raison d' étre.
The settlers refused to evacuate those settlements in the midst of the fighting, they had to forcibly evacuate and that evacuation, used the only two roads that allow Israeli tanks to come up on to the Golan Heights, clogged those roads and delayed Israeli reinforcement, and endangered the army that was on the Golan Heights. Those settlements were evacuated, amazingly enough the men returned. Infiltrated to those settlements, for political reasons, and had to be in the midst of the war re-evacuated. The experience that we have very clearly shows that even on the Golan Heights, the settlements, far from being a security asset, have been a security liability.
As I mentioned, the first phase was the Labor government's willingness to allow the settlement movement to enjoy itself, essentially to set up a few a settlements here and there. I remember being told in the early '70s by some people who I shall not name, but are now very well known as leaders of the peace movement, when I raised with them the dangers of settling any place on the West Bank, they poo-pooed the idea that a few thousand settlers could ever make any difference, especially in these uninhabited areas. Well, they came to see that was a mistake. Because what happened in 1977 was the earthquake, the political earthquake in Israel, when Likud came to power. Now you had a government that not only wanted the settlement movements to enjoy themselves, but actually wanted to tie the hands of future governments, not in areas that were relatively uninhabited but in the most densely populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza to make it impossible for Israel ever to leave these areas. The team that really undertook that was Prime Minister Menacham Begin and Ariel Sharon. In 1977, announcing his plan to settle a million Jews in the West Bank and Gaza, actually; 2 million Jews, and seal that area forever. This was a time when the government was helping these settlers to establish themselves, but found that they could not attract enough dedicated ideologues from inside Israel to live in harsh conditions on top of windy hilltops. What they did was to create massive subsidies, very, very lost cost housing, low cost land, build your own home programs, advertise as American standards of living for prices that you could never find inside of Israel proper, attracting young couples, attracting Mizrachim to the settlements, building urban settlements, not of the type that Gush Emunim had been setting up. Ma'Ale Adumim is one of the best known, Ariel and others. And pumping very large amounts of money every year into these subsidies. They came up to a problem that had to do with land. They needed much more land than was available under the rules that had been used.
For me to explain for a moment or two what they did with respect to that problem can give you a clear sense not only of the mentality that has been operating inside the government, inside the Likud governments, inside the Likud parts of the National Unity governments that existed in the 1980s, I will explain how Ariel Sharon solved the land problem that arose in the early 1980s, when their was a court decision, a very unusual court decision, a Supreme Court decision saying that although we normally allow the army to say that they are doing something like taking land from Arabs for security purposes they took land from Arabs in a place called Elon Morah, and the military, the chief of staff, Aful Eitan, said it was for security purposes, but the defense minister Ezer Weizman said that the land owners, who were claiming that their privately owned land had been expropriated for political reasons. Ezra Weizman said they were right. This was not for security reasons.
At that point the court asked the settlers themselves, and the settlers themselves said we are not doing this for security reasons: "We're taking the land and building Elon Morah because its our land and God told us to do it." That's a principal with Gush Emunim that its very dangerous to rely on security rational, only because security conditions can changes. Only ideology can remain permanently. So the court decided that that land had to be returned, and it was and Elon Morah was essentially dismantled and moved to another hilltop. It was a stunning defeat for the settlers who went on a hunger strike and demanded of Sharon who was head of the Israel Lands Administration, agriculture minister, and godfather to the settlement movement, and they demanded of Begin that he solve their problem by either annexing the West Bank, or by making it legal for Jewish settlers to expropriate private land. This, the government was unwilling to do, for diplomatic reasons, for political reasons, and for a commitment to legalism that was characteristic of Menachem Begin.
But Sharon found a way around it, and this is what he did, he saw that the court was not willing to decide what land was privately owned. They were only willing to say that if land is privately owned it couldn't be taken. What Sharon did was to devise a set of rules that would make it impossible or almost impossible for private land owners to actually prove that they owned particular parcels. He did this by noting that the Jordanians had not finished their distribution of title deeds at all in the West Bank, some places they hadn't even started the survey, and so he said that the military tribunals, from which their would be no appeal in the judgment of claims of land ownership would not be allowed to use tax records as evidence, but only title deeds, which he knew most land owners in the West Bank could not have received, could not have had in their possession.
This opened up almost unlimited vistas for expropriation of land, that the government could say was state land, and then, say that since it was state land it could be transferred to Israel's control. And abide by it's own rights, the principle of not expropriating land. This is an example of how tactically ruthless, effective and clever Sharon can be. And single minded, and detailed in the assessment of a situation, because he did get away with this. In the early 1980's their was a heated debate as the numbers of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza grew as to whether or not, what Meron Benvenisti called a point of no return was being reached. And a magic number emerged of 100,000.
If it was said, 100,000 Jews were living in the West Bank and Gaza, it would be impossible for any future government to withdraw from the West Bank. So there was a furious attempt by those governments to pass that 100,000 threshold. They had a hard time doing it, but eventually they did. That debate, the left didn't know what to do with it. At first they used the specter of 100,000, the specter of a point of no return, to rally their troops into the streets to try to stop it before it was too late. But once it essentially happened, if they wanted to continue the struggle, they had to start to minimize the importance of any particular number of settlers.
What I think the significance of that threshold was is that in the early 1980s, the question of what Israel was going to be doing with the West Bank and Gaza, for any government that would ever come into power, it ceased to be question of "well, I'm prime minister, if I decide to disengage from the territiories, I might lose the next election, I have to decide if its worth it or not." It stopped being a question like that, which it was with Golda Meir and Yitzak Rabin and his government from 1974-76, and started to be what I call a "regime-level" problem.
A problem where governments had to worry not only whether they would lose their coalition partners, not only would they lose votes, not only would they lose elections, but whether they would lose control of the country. Whether there would be violent attacks, illegal mobilizations of Jews against Jews, challenges to the legitimacy of the government--a code word for the threat of civil war. Ever since the mid 1980s, whenever a serious attempt to make peace has occurred, the settlers, with their allies have been behind, threat of civil war, a threat that became all to real in the minds of the government during the Oslo process, and did result in the assassination of Yitzak Rabin. The fact is, that transformed Israeli politics, so that Israel is stuck in a place where it will have to endure, and still will have to endure very serious dislocations in order to solve its problem with the Palestinians.
The reason its stuck there is because the right wing was never able to accomplish its most important objective which is to make the green line between West Bank and Israel disappear, to make Judea and Samaria appear to be just as much a part of Israel as Tel Aviv or the Galilee. They thought they had accomplished that around 1986, and I remember articles in that time in the Israeli press about "Who can remember where the Green Line was, and whether people born in 1967, who were 18 at the time even knew what the Green Line was. And you had some leftists out with cans of green paint , actually painting a line on the ground, to try to keep the barrier, at least the imaginations of Israelis alive.
That ceased to be a big problem actually, when the intifada erupted in 1987-88. Then everybody knew where the Green Line was and the West Bank ceased to be a place where you would go for comfortable life, nice views, aerobics classes, and so on, and started to be a zone of fear. And it has remained that way essentially since the late 1980s, and this is a massive defeat for the settlement movement. And we have to recognize that this is a massive defeat. They had anticipated having the number of Jews in the millions in this period, they have 220,000.
Now, let's turn briefly to the current situation. Their have been approximately 170 settlers that have been killed in this Al-Aqsa Intifada. There has been some flight from the settlements, not nearly as much as many Palestinians militants thought they could precipitate. Much of that flight has been from settlements in the Jordan Valley because the economic situation there has been so bad. There is very little good data, there is some data which the Middle East Peace Foundation put out looking at voter registration numbers and voting in the settlements and comparing them in this election to previous elections and there are signs, especially in many of the smaller non-religious settlements have lost significant numbers of people.
But there is an interesting reason, and I think it ties in well with the Call to Bring the Settlers Home, why their hasn't been movement out of settlements, at least more that you can actually see, that's because there is no way anymore for settlers in the West Bank and Gaza to sell their apartments, to sell their houses. The real-estate market in Israel has been disastrous for the last three or four years, but in the West Bank and Gaza, it has been absolutely horrible for settlers. You can't sell them; you can't even find what the price of an apartment is if there is nobody willing to sell it. So people don't have the resources, even if they want to, it's very difficult to move back into Israel, and buy an apartment, because you have no equity to realize. The desperation that exists, there are other signs I think of some desperation among the settlers, although they are careful to minimize this, and here are two examples of what I am talking about.
First of all you may have heard, or you may not have heard, that there was a mission to Peru by chief rabbi Lau, who found a tribe of Indians, who claimed to have had an ancestor, who had been Jewish. And he led that tribe-I'm not making this up-he led that tribe down to the river, essentially converted them on the spot. And flew them back to Israel and they are now living at Gush Etzion. They speak an Indian language, and there is that kind of desperation to find people who can be considered if not Jews, at least not Arabs, who can inhabit some of these settlements.
I'm going to give you a website now, which I encourage you to explore, and its part of the official YESHA website. YESHA stands as an acronym for Yehuda Shomron V'Aza, Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It also is a pun, it means "salvation" in Hebrew, and it also the name of the organization of local councils representing Jewish local councils in the West Bank and Gaza, mainly the Gush Emunim ones. And YESHA has a website, and if you go to this website, you can find that you are eligible to get free land, free land, not just subsidized apartments, free land, and as much land as you can farm in Gush Emmunim settlements. So this is the website http://yesha.homestead.com. And I'll read that again later.
I'd like to say a word about the illegal outposts that you've been hearing a lot about. These are part of a debate that has long gone on ever since the first Camp David discussions in which limits on settlement activity as a result of diplomatic agreements were sought to be imposed. And the argument among the settlers was of course these limits are illegitimate, but at least we have to have the right to natural increase or expansion of existing settlements. And then what would happen is little satellites would be produced a kilometer or two from the old settlements. They would be new settlements, but from the point of view of a sympathetic government could be called an expansion of the old settlement.
This game of whether this natural increase or the expansion of an old settlement or the creation of a new one is extremely familiar to US policy makers and US intelligence people who are watching these processes constantly. It's an old, old game. We see a slightly new variation on it under the last intifada in which hill tops surrounding settlements are inhabited, or a trailer is put on it, usually by teenagers, and celebrated as a conquest of a hill top and a security measure to protect the settlement or to realize a part of its master plan that hasn't yet been realized. These are illegal; they have not been sanctioned, though most of the Gush Emmunium settlements were created that way to begin with. There are now about a 115 sprinkled throughout the West Bank. They are a very self-conscious attempts by the settlers to evade official restrictions, to exploit Palestinian violence in the absence of world attention, and to create the conditions in which they will be able to say that there should be a belt, a sterile free-fire zone of 1500 meters around every settlement, and every road. And that would include these outposts.
The idea there is to destroy all Arab housing and ban all Arab movement throughout a great deal of the West Bank just by spreading out little by little from each settlement, and doing so with a very small number of settlers, in fact if you go that website you will find some of this discussed.
There was also a very interesting discussion of this by Rannan Gissen in a New York Times Magazine article that appeared a little while ago on the "Unsettlers," about these adolescents who are the new generation of Gush Emunim settlers, and who are involved in these outposts. In that article, he actually said that 70% of these outposts were for security purposes, even though they had been illegal. That's actually the last official statement we've had from the Sharon government about it's attitudes toward outposts and that was rather frightening; the idea that Sharon is now about to say that Israel will dismantle outposts, illegal outposts, it remains to be seen what he means by that. The absence of a definite article, that is the absence of him saying "We will remove the illegal outposts" suggests that he could remove 10 or 15 and feel that he abided by his announcement. This is really an important thing to watch.
I'd like to say two last things and open things up to questions. One is that there is an interesting aspect to these outposts, these adolescents who inhabit them are not simply doing it for ideological purposes, or to do what the great generation of their parents have done to create the whole settlement movement. These are actually areas, spaces for typical teenage activity which is relatively unsupervised by their parents, often religious parents. I know in many of the settlements, especially the religious ones, there is considerable concern about what goes on up their on those hilltops and how to ensure that there is enough adult supervision to warrant, to prevent unwanted activities, shall we say, of various kinds.
The other thing I'd like to mention has to do with American foreign policy and what the challenges are that are in front of us right now. Probably the single most important settlement to focus on right now is called Ras Al-Amud, that's the place in East Jerusalem that's between the Mount of Olives and the Old City, that has been set up as a settlement by Irving Moskowitz, a bingo king from Southern California, who has been funding illegal land purchase and land expropriation for years and hundreds of Jews are set to move in to these apartments that have now been completed. It stands right in the center of the key area that would be the Palestinian capital under the kind of settlement that was envisioned under Camp David, where Al-Quds would be the Palestinian capital, and Yerushalayim would be the Jewish capital. This settlement, in that sensitive area would create a barrier between the Arab West Bank and the Temple Mount and the Harm Al-Sharif and it is designed to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible to solve the Jerusalem problem. The United States government has been pressuring Israel to not let people settle, to not inhabit those apartments. We didn't want them to build the apartments, but they've been built. It now appears that some of those will be inhabited. This is an issue to keep your eye on.
MASTERS: Wonderful, Ian. Steve Masters again here from Philadelphia. We have a question from Herman in Baltimore. "Is there any merit to the idea that with the establishment of two independent states, the settlers who wish to can stay on their land and become good productive tax-paying citizens of the Palestinian state? Conceivably, with their technical know-how they could serve as a valuable economic engine within the new state, and if such an idea has validity, might it be linked quid-pro-quo to the right of return question?"
LUSTICK: I think that is a very interesting question and it is a question Ariel Sharon thought of a long time ago. In 1982, when Yamit was evacuated in the northeastern Sinai, because it was part of the agreement with Egypt that all the Jewish settlers be removed from Sinai. Sharon told Begin, Sharon was the one who told Begin at Camp David, he called him, he said, "It's OK, I will agree to this." And the idea is that we will thereby protect the West Bank and Gaza because we will sign a separate peace with Egypt.
But Sharon also realized that he did not want a certain precedent set. The Egyptians never said that the settlements had to be destroyed. They said the Jews had to leave. They could in principal have returned, that was not something that the Egyptians were necessarily opposed to. But Sharon was opposed to it. He did not want to create the precedent that Jews could live well under Arab rule. A precedent that could come back to haunt him in the West Bank and Gaza. So it was Sharon who not only evacuated the Jews from Yamit, but who destroyed Yamit, and he destroyed it in order that that precedent, which Herman suggests not be set. A lot of water has been over the bridge, and there's a lot more ferocious antagonism between settlers and Arabs in the West Bank than ever existed between Egyptians and Israelis in the Sinai.
It is difficult to imagine most of the settlers acting in the way that has been suggested, however, many of them do say that under no circumstances will they leave their settlements, that is they feel this is their home: period. And they have even been pressed on the issue of whether they would prefer to stay even under Arab rule, and some of them have said yes. Whether that's a trick, or whether that's an opportunity for provocations, that's got to be decided later.
Now as far as the right of return issue for Palestinians, I think that one of the principles involved is certainly similar. Even Palestinians acknowledge that any return of Palestinians into Israel, that any individual Palestinian that returns would have to be vetted by the Israeli security services [that the security forces would have the right to vet that person to] decide that that person was not a security risk. So I would imagine that the Palestinian State would have the right to vet applications by individual settlers to stay based on their history of good behavior, and their commitments to be good citizens.
MASTERS: We have a question from Barry in New York: "What should our reasonable expectations be for how far this current round of the peace process will take us, and what i[s] necessary for American Jewish groups like Brit Tzedek to do to help it go as far as it can?"
Let me combine that with another question from Houston, Texas which is: "I'm perplexed by Sharon's use of the word 'occupation.' Is this counter productive to what he is trying to achieve, or has he actually changed his tune?"
LUSTICK: This is another minuet. I've seen hundreds, and most of them take a more or less the same path. Each one contributes something. This one, because it's following the Iraq war, because the Iraq situation is so unsettled, because the stakes in the Middle East are so high politically for the President. There is opportunity, there is the possibility that the vital interests of an American president could intersect with the ideological commitments of a right wing government in Israel, could come into conflict with that, and that is the kind of setting that is most opportune for a rational US policy, and for a productive relationship with the Israeli polity as a whole.
So there is, in principle, reason to hope. In principle, also, the peace movement among Jews in the United States should always treat any statement by an Israeli government as if it were genuine, then use it as much as possible to hold it to what it can be interpreted to what was said. Even if we know, when Shamir, [who] we knew was totally cynical about the negotiations in Madrid, and afterward, that he only wanted to drag out negotiations in order to settle a million Jews, as he said later, in the West Bank. Still the fact that he said things that meant or could be interpreted to imply that the future of the land between the Jordan River and the sea would be the product of the political will of two peoples. That principle was something that was worth reminding him of over and over again.
I personally think that Sharon can not be trusted to have suddenly seen the light of day, to be committed to the two state solution which can work, but the fact that he sees it as necessary to anger his right wing, that has never trusted him completely, the settlers and the religious side, especially the settlers have never trusted him completely. It shows that he thinks that he at least has to move in this direction, I believe that can move, has a good chance of moving, to the point where 10-15 outposts are taken down, to the point were many of the checkpoints are loosened, where Israelis remove themselves from some, if not many of the populated areas, where housing demolitions start to decline, where violence declines, where Israel, essentially, if it doesn't admit, essentially, accepts the value of a cease fire with Hamas, as opposed to a violent bloody crackdown as a way to get Israeli security.
All of those things are very good precedents, now the next phase of the road map is where I can't see the process continuing, because the next phase requires an agreement on provisional interim boundaries of a provisional Palestinian state. We all know what Sharon's provisional boundaries, are, they're the same Canton system in the West Bank, and the utter ghettoization of Gaza that has always been his idea of a Palestinian Quasi- or Psuedo-state, and he will put that on the table as the interim boundaries, and the Palestinians will respond, if we ever get to this point in the roadmap, they will not accept these boundaries as interim, because they know they will not be the interim boundaries, that they are intended to be the final boundaries.
Now one way around that is to actually leap over the provisional phase of the road map, and go to the State itself. I don't think Sharon will be prepared to do that, and I don't think the United States will be, but I think we should be prepared to argue for something like that if the time seems appropriate.
Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't say about "occupation." What is the significance: He has said, in response to criticism, that he meant "occupation" of people, not of land. And in fact if you read his statement it is consistent with that interpretation. That is the meaning of the word kiboush is the meaning of the administration of the area that the Begin government, that Sharon was a part of, adopted. Where the Israeli rule was to end, and the Israeli military government was to withdraw, but it turned out that it did not mean that Israel would cease controlling these areas, it only meant that the individuals there would be aspire to be governed in their individual context by Arabs rather than Jews, but all of the land would still be under Israeli control. So the word "occupation" where it is a gigantic rhetorical, polemical victory for the left, and will be used in the future repeatedly, still it has a coded meaning on the right, for Sharon will be able to use to justify his position and to defend himself later, as loyal to the land of Israel when this process does break down.
MASTERS: Question from Celia in NY: Professor Lustick, you describe the settlers, as if they are all at, shall we say, the same level kookiness. But last summer, settlers studied by Shalom Achshav, revealed that the vast majority were there for economic and not nationalistic reasons and are now stuck there for the same reason. I wanted to expand on that. Recently there was a statement that came out of a young group of religious Zionists who grew up in the settlements, who have called on the settlement movement to renounce the occupation and to leave. And we know their were large numbers of settlers who met with Amram Mitzna when he was campaigning for prime minister of Israel, and he was suggesting a plan to compensate the settlers if the labor party won the election. Can you talk about the groups of settlers which are not represented by YESHA, what groups, if any, are there that do speak for them, and how we can, through our Call to Bring The Settlers home, address all the concerns of the settlers who want to leave.
LUSTICK: I'm very glad that question was asked, because I certainly agree with it, and would not want to leave the impression otherwise. I said in my remarks the reason that the Likud governments [has] had to engage in such massive subsidies was because they could not find the necessary number of ideologically committed Israelis. I would estimate that no more than 20,000 adults in the West Bank and Gaza should be classed in the category of fundamentalist, committed settlers willing against all odds to do what ever it takes to stay in the Territories.
The overwhelming majority moved to the West Bank and Gaza, well not really Gaza, but they did move to Yamit for this reason: A better standard of living. They, as it were, moved a few kilometers east for a better standard of living. And there's no reason in principle at all to think that if they moved east for a better standard of living, why couldn't they move west for a better standard of living, even to improve their standard of living. As I said, I was emphasizing that I think they are economically trapped there. They're not ideologically trapped, they are economically trapped. They have no equity to sell that would allow them to purchase or lease apartments inside of Israel. I think that's a very significant factor and I would encourage this movement to do more research than I have been able to do on the falling price of apartments in the West Bank towns, not because you want to advertise how cheap it is to move there, but how difficult if not impossible it is to sell an apartment there, which would itself discourage people from moving their, and highlight the distress that people are feeling and hopefully open up private and public opportunities for loans to help people move out of the West Bank and Gaza.
I believe some of the people keep their official addresses intact only for tax reasons, and may not in fact be living there anymore, but as I said, its very difficult to know. I should say though that all thought these people are not the Gush Emunim ideologues I was describing, they do tend, settlers across the board tend to vote much more for the right wing than Israelis living inside the Green Line. Now a lot of that is a result of what the Likud had in mind when it put people there.
When you put people amidst Arabs angry at the fact that you are living among them, and taking their land, the Arabs are going to attack them and they are going to start hating Arabs. Who expresses the feelings that they develop against the Arabs? The right wing parties.
MASTERS: Lisa in Los Angeles has asked a question: "Thank you for bringing up Moskowitz and his nefarious activities. Could you talk more about the apartments. Who is set to move in to them and is their anything we can do stop it. She knows people in LA have been heroically trying to prevent his activities through the state legislature. What is happening now?"
LUSTICK: I'm afraid I can't give you any information about who exactly these settlers are. Moskowitz has in the past worked with very closely with Ateret Cohanim, the crown of the priest Yeshiva, led by Shlomo Aveniri, who is a hard core Gush Emunim rabbi, and I don't know whether the people moving in to those apartments are connected with Ateret Cohanim or not.
I do have one suggestion, and I tried this myself without too much success. Ateret Cohanim and other groups have raised monies on the net and elsewhere. Including from Moskowitz, I believe, which are for strictly political purposes, if not illegal purposes in America, yet they have been raised as tax deductible contributions. Trying to get the IRS or the FBI to investigate the tax deductible status of these massive contributions that have been made to settlements, including Moskowitz's own activities, and this is a serious avenue of attack, there have been attempts to do it, they have been bogged down in the courts, there hasn't been enough money and enough talent behind the legal struggles, but that's an area where if resources were available, it would be useful to invest.
MASTERS: Phillip in Hamden, CT. His question is around talk of dismantling settlements, he wants to know does that mean the physical structure, the homes, the roads, the gardens, the stores. "When we dismantle settlements or evacuate settlements are all those destroyed like you described what Sharon did in Yamit, or is there talk now of preserving the infrastructure in some kind of negotiated solution to the conflict?" He also is asking what percentage of the settlers will fight rather than leave.
LUSTICK: On the last point, there was reference earlier to the Peace Now survey done in summer 2002, it really suggested that a very small number would be willing to fight. Six percent said they would fight a decision to leave by illegal means, and two percent said they would do so by armed struggle. You can really prove a lot of different things with polls. Usually answers to questions like this are exaggerated, so even those numbers may be high. But politically you don't need a large number to create the fear of entering a period of Israeli politics where there is gong to be this kind of Jew-on-Jew violence.
Once that's entered, seriously with a government that is determined to follow through, I don't see any possibility of the settlers stopping the process. But they have been very successful in scaring and deterring governments from moving quickly and decisively towards what is necessary to securing a solution and that is really the issue.
As far as dismantlement; when France left Algeria, the settlers were so furious, they burned as much as possible. They destroyed as much as possible, and yet if you go to Algiers today, you see plenty of Arabs and Muslims living in what were obviously French apartment houses. In the West Bank and Gaza, its going to be overseen by some kind of international agreement, you're not going to have the same kind thorough, complete, and unilateral destruction of the settlements. No, there has been plenty of appreciation that this infrastructure is not something you want to throw away. The roads aren't going anywhere, and maybe the architecture is not exactly what Arabs would like, but there will be a need by the refugees, and there will be certain satisfaction in using the settlements for that purpose. Its also a way for Israel to say that its making a massive financial contribution to the absorption of refugees because of the cost of the settlements being transferred, at least part of them as housing for the refugees, so its unlikely that they would actually be physically dismantled or destroyed.
MASTERS: A lot of us in Brit Tzedek have been responding to action alerts that we have been issuing from time to time on the road map, and now we are collecting signatures across the country on our "Call To Bring The Settlers Home." I know all of people wonder what the role of progressive American Jews, Jews who share our beliefs, in shaping the foreign policy directions that the Bush administration are pursuing, and why the various zig-zags and changes of heart are manifesting themselves in the Bush administration's policy in the last couple of weeks dealing with the road map. "Can you talk about what role you see for the peace camp in the American Jewish community and what leverage or power you think we have or could have in shaping foreign policy?"
LUSTICK: Look, we play a crucial role. And the most frustrating, that are views can't be the dominant views that are automatically seen as the views of the Jewish community. It is crucial for there to be a public Jewish view like that, so that people in the government who want to take a progressive and sensible position can do so by identifying themselves with a bona fide Jewish groups. This a reality of American politics, its important, and even if its not an overwhelmingly loud voice, the public presence of that voice is crucial. It also brings to the media information that otherwise would not be available.
The zigs and zags in the administration have been their since day one, this is a polarized administration inside the beltway with respect to this issue, you have crypto-Likudniks who've been in control since Middle East policy since 9/11. We all know the cast of characters that have been key in that. But you also have in the intelligence community, in the military, in the State Department, plenty of people who understand what the realities of this problem will require in the end. The President has at one time or another played it each way. I don't think he's known very much about this. He follows his gut, and that gut leads him in different directions at different times. Right now he has a political interest in doing things which many of the people he has been appointing as his close advisors do not want him to do. It's kind of amusing to see Elliot Abrams, now the Middle East National Security honcho, shuttling back and forth between Abu Mazen in Ramallah, and Sharon in Jerusalem, trying to hammer out the details on Sharon's statement on which outposts he is going to dismantle. This leads to the possibility I suppose that Bush recruited him into the White House so that he could protect his pressures on Israel by using people who had such right wing credentials, but that's pure speculation on my part.
MASTERS: You mentioned earlier in your presentation about Operation Mango in the Golan, and the large cost figure that was attributed to it from the calculations of compensating Golan settlers to move back into Israel. We have found a study from Professor Haim Ben Shahar at Tel Aviv University, on the economic cost of compensating the West Bank settlers. In which he estimates that there would be approximately 80,000 of the settlers that would be ripe for compensation, considering that many of the settlers live in blocks that would be probably be absorbed by Israel in the final status. He placed the cost at around $2 billion to $3 billion, if you look at housing cost of about 150,000, that's about 200,000 per unit. "How does that sound?"
LUSTICK: That does not sound unreasonable; I think the operation Mango figures were just bizarrely huge. I don't know how they arrived at them, I may not have them exactly, but they were certainly much much larger than what your talking about, but your are also in a different situation here. You'rein a situation in where, we believe 10s of 1000s of these settlers would be very anxious to leave, and they just can't right now. So under those circumstances you don't need as much money to illicit their compliance with an Israeli government decision to do so. Of course you can set up these decisions so that, as we saw after 9/11, you can give people the right not to accept compensation, and to hold out for more, but they might get nothing. There might be a window of opportunity when people will be eligible for this amount of compensation, and if they wait more than that time, then they'll only get a smaller amount. There are various ways to structure the availability of compensations so that you insure that many many people take advantage of it.
MASTERS: It's almost 10:35 here on the East coast, I wanted to present you with one more question and we will call it a night. We have a question from Joanne in Houston, dealing with how to address more mainstream Jews in the Jewish community on these questions. She recently had a conversation with folks in her local federation, and they made it clear to her that presenting a viewpoint that is anti-occupation was very far to the left and was basically outside their scales of what is appropriate or what can be put on the table, but in the last week we've just seen Sharon say seven times that the occupation must end, as we've talked about. "Do you see a new approach for us, or do you have any tips as to how to make entries into the mainstream community with the message and how to frame it in a way that people can hear it?"
LUSTICK: Two. One is an old saw, which is a demographic issue. There is, I would say 50%, maybe 51% of people between the river and sea who are Jews. And about 42% Arabs with a strong majority of Arabs under 18. Of the remaining 8% or 7% these are non-Jewish, non-Arabs, and whether they are guest workers, or there are 100s of 1000s of former Soviet Union immigrants who are not Jewish. The majority for the last seven years of immigrants from the former Soviet Union are not Jewish. They're legal, but they are not Jewish because they don't have to be Jewish to come in to Israel under the Law of Return, you just have to be a relatively distant relation to a Jew. That's one thing. The other is that if you look at a graph of the casualties from 1987 to now, year by year, just look at the Jewish casualties, the fatalities, you will see tremendous numbers whenever there are not political negotiations. Between 1993 and 2000, steadily declining, even with the bus bombings, steadily declining almost to zero in several years in the late 90s, Israeli fatalities. As soon as political negotiating process, even a bad one stopped, the armistice, the cease fire ended.
There is going to be a permanent war going on, in which Israel is not going to be able to displace the Palestinians, and the Palestinians are just not going to go away and they are not going to give up. That means constant negotiations, and you better think what do you want to result from those negotiations. Because, if you don't, what you are going to start seeing is Jewish emigration from Israel. There is a tremendous amount written on Jewish immigration into, even if it reveals itself to be non-Jewish, or heavily non-Jewish. Very little is said about emigration, and its for a good reason. As soon as Palestinians start see Jews starting to emigrate from the country, they will rapidly lose interest in, I think, in negotiating any agreement with Israel. So if American Jews are feeling that they don't want to send their kids to visit Israel, they have to assume that Jews in Israel are thinking that way about their kids. And that there is increasing pressures towards emigration, and that this is a towering danger to the Jewish State.
MASTERS: Professor Lustick, I want to thank you for a very deep and quite interesting presentation tonight. I want to thank you on behalf of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, and I want to wish everyone a good night.