In 1977 the Israeli occupation was 10 years old. There were 25,000 settlers. It was easy to believe the Israelis were holding the West Bank only as a bargaining chip. Arabs were terrorists.
Now the occupation has lasted 47 years. There are 500,000 settlers. Up to 60 per cent of the Israeli cabinet is on record as opposing a two-state solution. Palestinians have been part of a peace process for 25 years.
Israel has gone from secular to religious. The ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionists hold 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. It has gone from cosmopolitan to chauvinist, with some ministers espousing a brand of radical nationalism like that of France’s Le Pen or Austria’s Jorg Haider.
“The symbol of Israel used to be the kibbutz,” says a friend in the British Labour Party. “It’s now the settlement.” They have doubled in the past 54 months alone.
Sweden joining 138 nations that have already recognised Palestine and Britain’s House of Commons endorsing recognition. In the British debate, Richard Ottaway, a Conservative and long-term supporter of Israel, declared, “If they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.”
He and others in centrist politics have been sickened by religious fanatics standing on seized Palestinian land declaring that God gave them Judea and Samaria, and the Arabs are inferior anyway.
Sickened by the routine violence of the settlers, serious enough to warrant front-page treatment in that voice of the US foreign policy establishment,Foreign Affairs: settlers smashing the windows of Palestinian flats to drive families out, uprooting the date and olive trees on Palestinian farms, spraying graffiti on churches and mosques.
it leaves them living with mass arrests (760 in a recent sweep, 260 of them children) expulsions, demolitions. A former head of Shin Bet (Israel’s ASIO) said in the 2012 documentary The Gatekeepers that his paratrooper son invaded Nablus two or three times. He asked, “Did this bring us victory? I don’t think so.”
This week 100 ex-generals, senior police and a former head of Mossad issued a letter urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate with “moderate Arab states and with the Palestinians (in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as one)”. They know a two-state solution will not be perfect but preferable.
The alternative would be unthinkable: to accept colonial rule with one religious and racial group enjoying the vote, the majority denied it.