MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) slammed the Israeli settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria on Wednesday, claiming that the communities in this region are an obstacle to peace and attacking the “Israeli occupation” of lands liberated during the 1967 Six Day War.
Shelah was speaking at a conference which took place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was also attended by MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi), MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) and Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud).
"Settlements are an obstacle to a peace agreement and this obstacle is growing,” charged Shelah. “Israel progresses daily towards becoming like South Africa. It is on the verge of a boycott of products – first of those manufactured in the settlements and then those produced elsewhere in Israel.
"Israel's diplomatic position is deteriorating," said Shelah. "We will always have Micronesia (which voted against the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid at the United Nations), but we’ve got a situation where only nine countries voted with us against the Palestinians in the UN. The world has informed us that it is fed up with the situation in which we are an occupying power.
"The occupation corrupts," he declared, using a well-worn slogan of the Israeli far left. "Let me tell you what that means, because you’re too young to remember a time when it was different. It corrupts Israeli society, the IDF, the Israeli justice system, the Israeli media, the Israeli consciousness, the Israeli language.
"The Israeli justice system lives in a world which has one legal system for Israelis and another one for Palestinians,” charged Shelah. “The occupation corrupts Israeli society, because hundreds of thousands of people whose experience from their youth is a curfew and entry into people's homes are walking around in it. The IDF is doing its best to act morally, I do not doubt it. But the words 'Israeli Defense Forces' were once obvious - that this is what the IDF deals with.”
He continued, "It hurts the IDF at the operational level as well. The IDF of the Second Lebanon War is a product of this situation. It is the product of operational corruption. When the IDF sits in the living room of a Palestinian family for years, it becomes less of an army. The thought that the world will get used to this situation sounds like things that the whites in South Africa said.
"A political settlement is our supreme interest,” said Shelah. “We need to define our borders, to understand who we are, to clean the system within which we live."
Shelah is not the first MK from Yesh Atid, a party that claims to be centrist, but is put together from MK's of widely disparate political ideologies, to attack the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Several weeks ago, Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, also of Yesh Atid, said that “isolated settlements should be dismantled right now, without waiting for peace negotiations."
Cohen said, "These settlements cost us a lot of money and we can definitely partially dismantle them right now. Everything must be done to ensure that we are not thought of as doing everything possible to avoid negotiations. We must come to the negotiating table and to strive for peace.”
Attacking the residents of Judea and Samaria, Cohen charged, "Israel has lost control over the settlers, especially the hilltop youth. We’ve lost control of the settlers in some cases. We need take care of the youths, bring them back to normativeness."
Yesh Atid chairman Finance Minister Yair Lapid recently gave an interview to the New York Times in which he said that that Israel should not change its policy on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in order to revive the stalemated peace process, and that Jerusalem should not serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Lapid said he would not stop the so-called “natural expansion” of the Jewish communities, nor curtail the financial incentives offered to Israelis to move there. He said that eastern Jerusalem, liberated by Israel in the Six Day War, must stay Israeli, because “we didn’t come here for nothing.”
Speaking at Wednesday’s conference, MK Chetboun of the Bayit Yehudi party differed with Shelah, calling for renewed thinking about the failed “two-state solution”, saying it was time to consider other ways to resolve the conflict with the Arabs.
“We are trapped in the concept of the two states,” he said. “We must abandon this vision, which has failed time after time, and think outside the box. The key is applying Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and giving citizenship to Palestinians residing in Israel.”
According to Chetboun, “They’re trying to sell us the fear of a bi-national state, this is a demographic intimidation campaign that has no grip in reality. Israel is a Jewish state with an Arab minority, and it will remain this way even after sovereignty is applied.”
"Investment of resources should be centered on the founding of a Jewish state with an Arab minority that has equal rights,” he said. “The Zionist vision must not despair. Israel is strong, it is an Israel which is sure of itself. If we recognize this fact, the world will recognize it as well."