Would potential Israeli peacemakers fear Palestinians or settlers more?

by Yaniv Reich on December 16, 2009

Presume (incredulously, I know) that Netanyahu or some other Israeli leader truly wanted peace. Further, in order to arrive at peace, they would be willing to accept the basic framework for two-states that has formed the international consensus for 42 years. This would require giving up more than 95% of the West Bank inside the Green Line, and therefore hundreds of illegal colonies.

Its perfectly clear how the settlers would respond to such a move because we see how violent and entrenched settler opposition is to even a very partial, very temporary moratorium on new construction while simultaneously funneling new money and infrastructure into old construction. Today, a female Israeli officer was beaten, with multiple ribs broken, by a gang of settler teens for trying to enforce the freeze. So imagine the response to anything negotiated moves that might relinquish Israeli control over its religious misfits and their communities.

Its not too hard to imagine. In 1995, shortly after signing the Oslo Accords, a sitting Israeli prime minister, Yitzchak Rabin, was murdered by a settler fanatic who disapproved with the potential outline of the two-state solution. Rabin had been aware of increasing extremism against him as the calls for violence, even a death sentence against him, were commonplace. The head of a premilitary yeshiva in a settlement, Zalman Melamed, argued that an Israeli government that approves some settlements while uprooting others was “evil” and “treacherous” like “the Nazi selection at the death camps”:

“Had the Jews risen up”, he wrote, “all united against their Nazi oppressors … Germans would not have been able to carry out their deeds as they had planned. This is the case with this government.”

Rabin was publicly compared to Marshall Petain, the Frenchman who betrayed France and joined the Nazis: “If heaven forbid, the disaster you [i.e. Rabin] are planning for us [i.e. the settlers] occurs—you will not be absolved! You will face justice and be put on trial … Parallel to the internal protest, the ugly face, the monstrous face of a peace that is purchased by national betrayal will become increasingly clear!” Settlers arrived to Rabin’s speaking events with posters depicting him dressed in a German SS uniform.

Such fundamentalist hysteria has not subsided. The settlers and their rabbis make very clear that the appropriate response to any government effort to suppress their colonization project is outright treason, including divinely-sanctioned violent struggle against military units, leaders, and innocent Palestinian villagers. These forms of incitement are made perfectly explicit in the baby-killing guide and the rabbinical statements from the leaders of hesder yeshiva (army units for the very religious). It is not difficult for these religious freaks to justify their violence against so-called enemies of their national project, as they see any resistance to their messianic jingoism.

No Palestinian or Arab has ever murdered an Israeli prime minister. The same cannot be said of the settlers.

When it comes down to peace talks, then, who is the potentially peace-making Prime Minister more afraid of? Which group causes more worry as a Prime Minister shuffles from home to office to speaking engagement? Ultimately, which group is a greater threat to Israel?

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