Plan for settlers that's naive and dumb

Dr Alexander Yakobson teaches ancient history at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His specialities are democracy, politics and electioneering in the late Roman Republic. In common with other Israeli academics on the left he has, however, sought to broaden his areas of specialism in the light of contemporary peace-making (so-called) in the Middle East.

His academic interests are now said to include “democracy, national identity, nation-state and the rights of national minorities — in Israel and in Western democracies.” It was on the basis, I take it, of this more recently acquired status that Yakobson took it upon himself, earlier in December, to publish in the Jerusalem Post an essay entitled “How to deflate the settlements as an issue.” It makes for chilling reading.

Yakobson starts from the reasonable premise that the Palestinian leadership will have to agree, as part of a final settlement of all outstanding disputes with the Jewish state, that some territory in Judea and Samaria is ceded in perpetuity to Israel.

He also recognises that existing Jewish communities on the West Bank are far too numerous to permit a forcible evacuation. So what of those Jewish townships that are not ceded in perpetuity? Yakobson has a cunning plan: “Let us assume that they are now too numerous to be removed; does this fact also give them the right to determine forever the political status of the areas where they live? By what title can they lay claim to this, the mother of all unprecedented privileges? And if we are talking about real peace, why can’t there be a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state?”

Minorities have rights and this plan is immoral and obscene

The Yakobson plan runs thus: an independent Palestinian state will be established alongside the Jewish state; those Jews residing in areas that become part of the Palestinian state, and who decide, for whatever reason, not to move to the Jewish state, will become citizens of the Palestinian state.

But of course in that case they will no longer enjoy the protection of the Jewish state: “Nobody will have to be dragged from their homes, and nobody will be able to prevent the IDF from withdrawing to Israel’s recognised boundaries. Many of the people in question will, no doubt, choose to move to Israel — but this will be their choice.”

Palestinian spokespersons have repeatedly said that no Jewish “settlers” will be permitted to reside in areas under Palestinian sovereignty. Yakobson’s riposte is that such Jews will no longer be settlers, but citizens – citizens, that is, of the Palestinian state.

He has the good grace to admit that “precedents for Jews living under Arab sovereignty, in the decades since Israel’s independence, are not encouraging: no Jewish community, he admits, has been able to survive anywhere in the Arab world. But Israel will be “close by” — ready to receive Jewish refugees should conditions in the Palestinian state turn ugly.

Besides, he adds optimistically, the Palestinian government “will be vitally interested in turning the Palestinian state into a success story, and, hence, in preventing attacks against its Jewish inhabitants.” But he adds: “Of course, there is no foolproof guarantee against acts of terrorism.”

I can agree that Jews residing in Judea and Samaria should not be able to veto a peace deal with the Palestinians. I can also agree that all citizens of Israel, on whatever side of the Green Line, should have their say in the approval of any genuine peace deal.

But democracy is not the same as the dictatorship of the majority. Minorities also have rights. The notion of abandoning Jews anywhere to the mercies of hostile regimes strikes me as frankly immoral. The idea that Jews living (with the full approval, I might add, of successive Israeli governments) in Judea and Samaria. should be somehow consigned to the whims of a Palestinian state, suffused with anti-Jewish racism, strikes me as frankly obscene.

The idea that such Jews would be accorded the full rights of citizenship, as we in the West understand them, strikes me as frankly half-witted.

But if Yakobson thinks that Jews have nothing to fear from the Palestinians, let him remove himself and his family forthwith to, say, Ramallah. If he is unwilling, I suggest that his best course of action would be to shut up, and confine his future musings to the ancient world, of which he is a genuine expert.

Last updated: 9:45am, January 3 2014