Israel dismantles another settlement, gets no credit

A Jewish man waits at a bus stop near the Israeli settlement of Shiloh in November 2016. The Israeli army evacuated Malachei Hashalom, an unauthorized encampment near Shiloh. Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90.

By Stephen M. Flatow

You didn’t read about it in the New York Times or hear about it on “CBS Evening News.” The European Union didn’t praise it, and the United Nations didn’t acknowledge it. But last week, Israel dismantled yet another Jewish settlement.

Of course, when Israel announces a plan to build a handful of homes in some Judea and Samaria community at some point in the future, that’s headline news. And when the Israeli government recently authorized the construction of a new Jewish town—the first one in 25 years!—the critics were all aghast.

But when Israel tears down a settlement, it gets zero credit in the eyes of the world. Last week, the Israeli army evacuated Malachei Hashalom, an unauthorized encampment near the community of Shiloh in Samaria. Malachei Hashalom hadn’t displaced any Arabs. Its residents didn’t hurt anybody. It wasn’t occupying private Arab land; it was situated on the grounds of an abandoned army base. Surely, Jews have a historic and religious right to reside in a region that has been a central part of the Jewish national homeland since time immemorial.

Still, Israel is a nation of laws, the Malachei Hashalom outpost was unauthorized, and so that was that.

It was not the first such outpost to be dismantled. Contrary to the demonized depiction of colonialist Israel spread by the J Street crowd, the Israelis have torn down a number of such outposts in recent years—not to mention the dismantling of the Yamit communities in northern Sinai (1982), the destruction of four Jewish towns in northern Samaria (2005) and the mass expulsion of more than 8,000 Jews from Gaza (also in 2005).

Those episodes are a painful reminder that Israeli concessions are almost never appreciated, reciprocated or even acknowledged. No matter how much Israel surrenders, the Arabs and their supporters always demand more.

If Israel freezes construction outside the settlement blocs, they demand a freeze within the blocs, too. If Israel were to freeze all construction, its enemies would next demand that every existing community be torn down, and its residents expelled.

Of course, it wouldn’t stop there. Israel surrendered the Sinai—which comprised 80 percent of the territories it won in self-defense in 1967—but that wasn’t enough. Then Israel withdrew from all of Gaza. That wasn’t enough. Then it gave the Palestinian Authority control of nearly 40 percent of Judea and Samaria. Still not enough. And you can bet if Israel ever gave up the rest of Judea and Samaria, that wouldn’t be enough, either.

No, the demands would only intensify. Instead of the “1967 lines,” the Arabs and their allies would start shouting about the “1947 lines.” That’s right, the absurd partition lines the U.N. recommended in 1947—but which the Arabs themselves rejected—would suddenly be promoted as “the only path to peace.” The Galilee and the Negev would be branded “occupied Arab territory.”

And so it would go, with Israel shrinking and shrinking, until it disappears—which is, of course, exactly what the Arabs are really after.