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Defending the 2-state solution in today's Yediot Ahronot: It is All Reversible (Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer)

migron186x140.jpg Writing in today's Hebrew-language edition of Yediot Ahronot, Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer challenges the despair and defeatism that gives rise to the view that the settlers' have already won and the two-state solution is dead.   Translation by Israel News Today.

It is All Reversible

In the past months, a surreal and dangerous ideological alliance has been emerging between some of the settler representatives and prominent figures in the left wing, based on despair and lack of faith in the vision of two states for two peoples.  The sense of helplessness against the Elkin-Danon-Regev government, along with reports about the acceleration of construction in the territories, have succeeded in causing many people to despair, to raise a white flag and to announce the victory of the settlers.  Instead of raising their head high and fighting for the only solution that will enable Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state, many prefer to admit defeat and failure, and eulogize the chance of separation from the Palestinians into two states.

One person who succeeded in identifying the trend and riding it is Settlers Council Chairman Danny Dayan, who in recent months has searched for every possible platform and means to declare victory and state that the settlements have become an irreversible fact, and that the wheel can never be turned back.  Like a judo wrestler, Dayan knows how to take the rival's strength and use it against him.  For example, Dayan has been able to utilize to his advantage the ongoing reports by Peace Now on the increased construction in the territories, and instead of condemning the reports and bemoaning the bitter fate of the settlers who build too little, he chooses to take the data and use them to bury psychologically the chance of an arrangement.

There is no lack of left wingers who are willing to jump on the bandwagon of despair being led by Dayan.  It is understandable that pessimism has succeeded in taking over the minds of so many people.  Indeed, the news from the territories is disheartening, and construction in the past year has significantly accelerated, in the isolated settlements too.  But it is a long way from this to a strategic change in reality.

The number of settlers living in the isolated settlements, which Israel will have to remove in a final status arrangement, has increased--but not dramatically.  Most of the increase in the settler population is in the Haredi settlements, Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit, which are located near the Green Line and the chance of leaving them within Israeli territory after an agreement is almost certain.

In the isolated settlements most of the construction consists of private homes.  No settlements are being built on the ground.  The number of settlers that Israel stands to evict as part of an arrangement continues to be about 100,000, about 1.5 percent of Israel's population.  This is not a negligible number, but it is not substantially different from the number that was discussed in the negotiations between Olmert and Abu Mazen or between Barak and Arafat.

The situation on the ground is changing, the reality is becoming more complex, the price of an arrangement is continuing to rise, but it is too soon to eulogize it.  The State of Israel, which succeeded in absorbing a million immigrants within a decade; which succeeded in removing within six hours the largest outpost in the territories; will succeed, if it so wishes, in evicting one-and-a-half percent of its population in order to bring to an historic end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The questions of the cost of the eviction and the number of settlers that Israel will be forced to remove are an important but not exclusive component of the question of the feasibility of an agreement.  The Israeli public's motivation to end the conflict and reach an agreement is more important than any number of settlers that Israel will have to evict.  As the sense of urgency to reach an arrangement increases in Israel, as the price of failing to attain it and continuing the occupation rises--the question of removing the settlements will be diminished in the eyes of the public, and will become irrelevant in comparison with the other interests.

If the period of relative calm in which we live is not translated into action, the path to changing people's attitudes may only arrive after another violent and painful round with the Palestinians--one that is inevitable, whether we like it or not.  Capitulation and surrender to the settlers does not just mean giving up on the removal of settlements, it means giving up on the idea of Israel being a Jewish and democratic state that lives in peace with its neighbors.