Israel’s settlement policy is ‘destroying’ the country

A London audience this week voted decisively in favour of a motion that Israel was “destroying itself with its settlement policy”.

The resolution at a packed public debate was proposed by New Israel Fund board member Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and William Sieghart, chairman of the dialogue group Forward Thinking.

Opposing them were Dani Dayan, chairman of Yesha, the Jewish settlers’ council in Judea and Samaria, and Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick.

Before the start of the event – which was staged by the Intelligence Squared debating forum – the audience voted by 343 for the motion and 97 against, with 192 undecided. By the end, the number in favour had risen to 517, with 99 against and just 31 undecided.

At one point, the arguments became so heated that the chairman, BBC journalist Tim Franks, had to intervene to restore order on the panel.

In his presentation, Mr Dayan said that having rejected partition in the past and trying to annihilate the Jewish state by force, the Palestinians had lost the moral right to demand it now.

Believing Jewish settlement to be “morally impeccable”, he said that without Israeli control of the strategically important hills of Judea and Samaria, only a fence would separate Tel Aviv from an “Islamic fundamentalist territory” stretching all the way to Afghanistan. “That is suicide,” he said.

Instead of a Palestinian state, he suggested that the territories should eventually be jointly administered by Israel and Jordan.

“The fact is that a Palestinian stated does not exist even today because of the moral and political decisions made by the Palestinians themselves,” he said.

But Mr Levy contended that “the single most prohibitive factor to achieving a two-state solution is the settlement enterprise”.

You can watch the debate on Youtube.

Last updated: 3:25pm, January 18 2013