Last week, Cleveland Jewish News Columnist Marcy Oster wrote eloquently about the natural springs in her area of the West Bank and about the terrorist attack at a spring elsewhere in the West Bank in late August that killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl, Rina Shnerb. Oster concluded with the hope that “Israel’s beautiful natural springs will again be safe for the enjoyment of my children and everyone’s children.”
I would like to pick up on the thought and take it one step further. First a clarification, not to be contrarian but, simply to lay out the reality on the ground. Oster makes reference to “Israel’s beautiful natural springs.” The spring where the terrorist attack was committed, northwest of Ramallah near the isolated Jewish settlement of Dolev, is not within the territory of the state of Israel.
Nor are the natural springs near her home, since the West Bank was never annexed by Israel. And in Israel proper, other than along the Gaza border and in some parts of East Jerusalem, Israelis live their lives with little concern for their safety.
The distinction between Israel and the West Bank is not some legal technicality. It goes to the heart of the conflict with Palestinians who seek to make the West Bank part of a future independent Palestinian state. The only way to resolve our conflict with the Palestinians is to give them such a state, although there would have to be complicated negotiations with them, in part because of the 400,000 Jewish Israelis who have moved into the territory with the encouragement of some Israeli governments. And settlers have even taken over springs that had been used by Palestinians for irrigation and recreational purposes.
That in no way justifies violence against Jews living or visiting the West Bank, which should be condemned in the strongest terms, but it is a reminder that the presence of Jews there has political implications. We shouldn’t delude ourselves that a visit to a West Bank spring is the Israeli equivalent of visiting the Cleveland Metroparks North Chagrin Reservation.
Fortunately, most of the Jews in the West Bank live in settlement blocs near the Israeli border. Land swaps could give the Palestinian state Israeli territory in exchange for the settlements that are annexed to Israel in the border adjustments. Such a state would provide self-determination to the Palestinians, but more importantly, would establish Israel’s demographic Jewish character and abate the threat that ruling over millions of Palestinians would turn us into a binational country and end the Zionist dream.
The only real alternative to a Palestinian state is full Israeli annexation of the West Bank, in which Israel gives the millions of Palestinians there the right to vote and citizenship. Then, the beautiful West Bank springs would indeed be Israeli springs, but at what price? At the cost of the end of Israel as a country with a clear Jewish majority.
But what was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the terrorist attack that killed Rina? His office announced that he would push for planning approval to build about 300 new apartments in the isolated Dolev settlement. Netanyahu thinks he can show the terrorists who’s boss, but he is shooting Israel in the foot.
Dolev appears too isolated to be annexed to Israel in any readjustment of the border in a peace agreement. Therefore, Netanyahu’s harebrained response is either another step toward a binational Israel or a case of Israel building homes that will eventually be given to the Palestinians in a peace agreement. In either event, it is total folly.
The only consolation is that it’s possible that Netanyahu will be voted out of office in Israel’s election on Sept. 17.
Cliff Savren is a former Clevelander who covers the Middle East for the Cleveland Jewish News from Ra’anana, Israel. To read more of Savren’s columns, visit cjn.org/savren.