Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Some think that Israel’s settlements have done nothing for Israel politically. In fact, the settlements have given Israel something to give away. “Land for peace” – in the mouths of most Arabs, the most cynical phrase since Arbeit Macht Frei — requires land. If Israel didn’t have West Bank land, it would be asked to give up other land instead.
In an article last year on the Suez War in Azure, the excellent journal of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, Michael Oren (before becoming Israel’s ambassador to the United States) pointed out that in 1954, when there was no West Bank territory to give back, the “land for peace” plan included large swaths of the Negev as the Israeli land to be sacrificed. In return for the Negev, wrote Oren, Egypt “would grant nonbelligerency—not peace–to Israel. Though Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rejected Alpha [as the plan was called], American and British leaders were prepared to exert immense pressure on him to implement the plan should Cairo accept it. Indeed, the Egyptians had long demanded the Negev as a land bridge between them and the Arab world. In secret meetings with Israeli diplomats after the armistice, Egyptian representatives repeatedly demanded that Israel forfeit all of the Negev — 62% of [Israel’s] territory — as the price of ending the conflict.”
Imagine if there was a J Street back in 1954. J Street – which never accepted the idea that Israel has any rights whatsoever in the disputed territories, only that Jews promptly surrender whatever the Americans and Arabs demand – would surely have embraced the Negev “land for peace” plan. Why wouldn’t they? All white flags look alike.