My co-blogger, Shmuel Rosner, mentioned in one of his latest posts, that the Israeli settlements are legal. “A judiciary committee has concluded that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are in fact legal. The West Bank, the committee believes, is not occupied territory and therefore Israel has the legal right to settle it.”
On the surface, it seems like a great deal, since the matter of the legality of the settlements has been occupying Israeli and non-Israeli minds. The settlements are one of the subjects which divide Israelis since the early days of Israel, and are also a winning argument for our haters, who enjoy calling us “conquerors”. Now, so it seems, no one can claim “occupation”- we won! Unfortunately, this legal victory will cause no change in those “occupation” conversations. The simple reason is, just like Rosner claimed, that the discussion about settlements and occupation is not legal, but rather political. I read the paper every day, and it seems like a headline- worthy announcement. However, in got almost zero recognition and the reason is that no one cares. It may cause a withdrawal of several lawsuits by Arabs claiming the territories, but when it comes to what really matters, and it is the people’s agenda, the argument involving the settlements is not going anywhere.
I study Communication and Political Science, which means I get to take part in conversations/arguments/violent arguments on a daily basis, and on every subject which concerns Israel. Since 1948, the matter of the settlements has been one of the few causes for the rift between left-wing and right-wing in Israel. Settlements, the treatment for the Palestinians, and the Ultra-Orthodox’s status are the three major conflicts which concern Israeli governments for 64 years, in one way or another. The first two also help fuel the fires of Israel’s haters, as they were used for claims against Israel’s policy as a “violator of Human Rights”, “a conqueror”, and so on. While the arguments considering the settlements (both in and out of Israel) were legal-based, mentioning Israel’s “violent and illegal conquest” or “theft”, the meaning was always political.
The proof for the real intentions behind this argument is the simple fact the announcement of the legality of the settlements failed to attract anyone’s attention, and the arguments remained the same, and will continue to remain the same. Left-wingers will continue to call for clearing the settlements, and right-wingers will continue to struggle for their spread. Bottom line is, the conversation regarding settlements, like any other political topic, relies on the heart, not on the mind. It relies on beliefs and traditions, not on legal documents. The legality of the settlements will not change the minds of those who believe they should be cleared, as has never been the issue.