Ashton: 'Settlements' top Mideast issue
Ashton: 'Settlements' top Mideast issueIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Like it or not, everybody in Israel knows that without the "settlers", the real pioneers of our time, the Jewish State would have no real defensive barrier against Palestinian terrorism. Unfortunately, the settlers are vilified as a "needless burdens" on the defense budget.

Along with the "Palestinian private land" blood libel, security is the main argument against dozens of outposts in Judea and Samaria. Migron, the largest of these communities, might fall soon a victim to these lies.

Strangling the existing Jewish communities would not only be undemocratic, but it would mean that an Israeli government is collaboraing with the non-settlement of Jews in these territories, championing the anti-Semitic policies observed in Arab states.

But it would also constitute a pre-negotiation relinquishment of Israeli rights to the most vital areas for its security.

The "West Bank" isn't some remote territory; it is a small area, close to Israel's main population centers.

Israel is a very tiny country. Its land mass is less than the size of New Jersey; its total population less than New York City's. It is surrounded by fanatic Arab countries commanding vast land masses and populations.

Since 1967, the mountain range running from Jenin to Hevron, comprising a continuous ridge approximately 55 kilometers long, 20 km. wide and reaching heights of 1,100 meters, has become Israel's front line for air defense.

On September 1, 1982, Ronald Reagan said, "I have personally followed and supported Israel's heroic struggle for survival since the founding of the State of Israel 34 years ago: in the pre-1967 borders, Israel was 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel's population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again."

Now, however, there is an anti-Semitic US President who would like to see Israel committing suicide.

Here are a few examples of how the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria protect the entire country.

In “Operation Defensive Shield”, if the IDF had not had the "political" settlement of Har Bracha overlooking Nablus, it would have taken the army three to four days to enter the city to begin operations, fighting all the way. We remember then prime minister Ariel Sharon filmed while looking into Nablus from a nearby "settlement".

Without Jewish communities, Israel could be severed in several locations before reserves could be mobilized. Without "settlements", Israel's strategic space would shrink to Kalkilya.

"Settlements" form a kind of buffer zone for the bigger cities. I think of the French Hill-to-Ma'aleh Adumim continuum on Jerusalem's northeastern flank, the Samarian ridge overlooking Gush Dan (from Alfei Menashe through Peduel) or the settlements in the southern Hevron Hills (from Eshkolot to Carmel, a few minutes away from Beersheba).

These communities are not equipped to stop an invading army. The towns and villages on the Golan Heights could not stop Syrian tanks in 1973, and the agricultural communities in the Jordan valley will not be able to stop an invasion from the East. Nor are they expected to.

But the "settlements" absorbed most of the attacks during the Second Intifada. Their courageous residents stuck to the land and stuck to their guns. 

In the period between December 1987,  through the Oslo accords to 2003, covering the first two, most violent years of the Second Intifada, 40 percent of Israeli victims were murdered in Judea-Samaria-Gaza, which comprised only 2-3 percent of the population during this period. If the settlers would have not been there, these dead would have been counted on the coastal plain.

With no Jewish remote "settlements", the security fence would have no future, but it would become like the Philadelphi route, which Israel couldn't defend once it destroyed the 14 Jewish towns behind it in the Sinai. The barrier is where it is supposed to be, because the purpose of the "settlements" is to protect it from the other side. Yitzhar for example overlooks Wadi Qana, where terrorists travel from Nablus, a terror hotbed, in the direction of Tel Aviv.

Elon Moreh overlooks a number of vital roads, including the Ramallah-Nablus road and the Nablus-Jordan Valley road.

Take two strategic hilltops outside the settlements of Beit Aryeh and Ofarim that overlook the Ben Gurion airport and the Gush Dan region. The observation point overlooks the entire coastal plain, from Ashkelon in the south to Hadera in the north. From there a plane can be downed.

Katzir overlooks the Wadi Ara highway carrying traffic between the Coastal Plain and the Jezreel Valley, and has obvious security implications. During times of tension, there have been instances of fire-bombing and stone-throwing on the road.

The settlers told the Israeli public that if you eliminate the Jewish towns in Gaza, rockets will land in Ashkelon and Ashdod. The settlers told the army that the Philadelphi Route and Gush Katif were an essential obstacle between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, because only from there can the army protect the Negev.

Many of the "settlement" locations were chosen to be in dominant areas, vital for Israel's defense. Every experienced commander who hasn't yet become a cynical politician knows that to defend the Jordan line one must hold the mountain range and areas west of it. This is where most of the Jewish communities are located today - and not by accident. This is the rationale behind where Migron lies and should be.

Without the "settlements'" surveillance cameras Israel would not  be able to see who travels through these areas.

If it hadn't been for a handful of brave pioneers who settled at Mitzpe Revivim, the Negev today might not be part of Israel. One day we will might say the same for the outposts in Samaria.

Those who are now working to destroy Migron envision the Jewish State as a small enclave along the shore line, whose undefendable borders would be guaranteed by the international community.

Migron lives! As long as the settlers are there, there's hope for the entire State of Israel. 

The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He is at work on a book about the Vatican and Israel.