Adel Safty
Gulf News
May 17, 2010 - 12:00am

One of the fundamental tenets of political Zionism has been the so-called redemption of the land for the purpose of founding a Jewish state where all the Jews of the world are supposed to gather and find a safe haven from persecution. The early Zionist leaders recognised the difficulty they faced: the land to be redeemed was Palestine and it was inhabited by another people who could not be expected to peacefully acquiesce to the transformation of their country into a Jewish state.

The only solution, it was suggested, was the expulsion of the Arab population, which was euphemistically referred to as a "transfer"; expulsion remained an objective to be achieved during the military encounters with the Palestinians. The latter were characterised by a total war — termed an "aggressive defence strategy" — in which any Arab village from which an attack originated was destroyed and its residents expelled.

Expulsion was most notably advocated by Ariel Sharon and popularised by his slogan ‘Palestine already exists in Jordan', to which Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza should be expelled.

One would think that with the acceptance, albeit reluctant, by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the concept of two states, and the start of proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the concept of expulsion would have been shelved as it is incompatible with the quest for peace. Recent events, however, suggest otherwise.

Last month two Israeli military orders — the Order Regarding the Prevention of Infiltration and the Order Regarding Defence Regulations — came into effect. The practical implications of these orders is that any Palestinian who enters the West Bank without Israeli permission is deemed to have done so "unlawfully" and anyone living in the West Bank without an Israeli permit is deemed an "infiltrator" — and both groups are to be deported.


Israeli military authorities have, since 2000, defined Palestinians living in the West Bank but with registered addresses in Gaza as illegal residents and have been demanding, since 2007, that these people request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Spouses of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and hold a foreign passport but are unable to get residency permits because Israel refuses to grant their applications for family unification will also be affected by the recent orders.

The Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem estimates that there are tens of thousands of individuals in these categories.

The orders are a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, which strictly prohibit the forced removal of citizens from their homes and from their places of residence. It is also evidence of bad faith on the part of Israeli leaders, who continue to proclaim their interest in peace while erecting hurdles to the quest for a settlement.

The editors of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz described the potential impact of the recent military orders as "liable to give the world clear-cut proof that Israel's aim is a mass deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank".

The Netanyahu government recently provided yet more evidence, if any was needed, of their lack of good faith. Despite universal condemnation and an intense confrontation with the United States, Tel Aviv is going ahead with evictions of Palestinians from occupied east Jerusalem and the construction of Jewish colonies.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch recently told the Israeli Knesset that the resumption of indirect peace talks notwithstanding, colony expansion would proceed.

At about the same time, the Israeli group Peace Now said that work had recently begun on the construction of 14 units designed to become the largest Jewish neighbourhood in occupied east Jerusalem.

The new colony will be connected to existing colonies on the other side of the road. When this work is complete, more than 1,000 Jewish colonists will be living in the heart of an Arab neighbourhood of 14,000 Palestinians.

In a recent speech to the Knesset, Netanyahu gave a remarkable explanation that revealed the rationale informing his defiant position. He said that "Jerusalem" and its alternative Hebrew name "Zion" appeared 850 times in the Old Testament and 142 times in the New Testament, whereas none of the 16 different Arabic names for Jerusalem is mentioned in the Quran.

It is not clear how the Israeli government's actions and this line of thinking can be reconciled with their claims that they are interested in reaching a peace settlement with the Palestinians. There are two possible explanations. The first is that the current Israeli leaders are operating under bad faith and are not seriously interested in peace with the Palestinians. The second is that the Israeli leaders are interested in a settlement, but one that is thoroughly at variance with the requirements of a just and lasting peace, which the Palestinians and the international community hope will be achieved via a two-state solution.

In either case, with the Palestinians and the international community on one side, and the Israeli government on the other, the quest for peace depends more than ever on the unfathomable vision and archaic ideological convictions of the small number of people that make up the current Israeli government.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017