The Jerusalem Post website today carries an "exclusive" interview with two settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The whole piece is an interesting insight into this particular mentality – note, for example, Yuval’s observation that the "Galilee needs to be taken care of – it’s full of Arabs". But there is one particular section worth highlighting:
But in general – and this is my personal position – our attitude toward the Arabs is that I don’t have any antagonism toward any Muhammad or Mustafa here; I don’t have personal problems with them. It’s a national issue here. We want to be in those specific places. It has to be clear that Eretz Yisrael in general and Jerusalem in particular belong to the Jewish people, and they have to understand that…The important point is that they have to admit who the landlord is here. I don’t mean regarding financial issues, like to whom you pay rent or that, but whom does this place belong to?
Read that back again – "I don’t have any personal problems with them…The important point is that they have to admit who the landlord is here."
This reminded me of something I’d written two years ago. Here’s the relevant section:
In a recent piece in The Los Angeles Times, the mayor of the Gush Etzion bloc, Shaul Goldstein, looks down at the land owned by a Palestinian family from Bethlehem and assures the reporter: “‘If the state wants to give it to me, for my settlement, they will give it to me. All the land belongs to Israel. We can build wherever we want’”. Interestingly, while Goldstein rejects the idea of an illegal Israeli occupation — since the land is Israel — he also tolerates the limited presence of Palestinian “neighbors,” and “says they must be accommodated in what he calls the land of Israel.”
This same kind of rejectionism and denial of Palestine’s right to exist is not the exclusive preserve of the settlers; it is echoed at the heart of the Israeli political establishment. Speaking to the UN in September 2005, Ariel Sharon made similar remarks to those of Goldstein:
“The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.”
Thus, “according to Sharon … the Jewish people have a ‘right … to the Land of Israel;’ in other words, theirs is the right of ownership and possession — in practice and in principle. All others, or more exactly, the Palestinians, have ‘rights in the land’… [They] do not, it appears, have any right to the land of Palestine itself.”
In case even Sharon’s views are dismissed as those of an unrepentant right-winger, there is also the example of current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, ex-Prime Minister of a Labor-led government and apparent “hawkish dove.” In 1999, a year before the second intifada and well before construction commenced on the separation wall, Barak spoke at length about his vision for the OPT:
“‘Only physical separation from the Palestinians will give us both personal and national security, but in no way will we withdraw to the 1967 border,’ he explained. ‘Bet El and Ofra will be ours forever … There is no meaning to our identity and to all that we are here without the connection to Shilo and to Tekoa, to Bet El and to Efrat …’”
Moreover, his opposition to outposts was not “because we do not have such a right.” In fact, Israelis “have a complete right to settle there. We didn’t steal anything from anyone. We have deep ties with these places.” Interestingly, in February of the same year, Barak specified some of Israel’s “red lines:” “Alfe Menache, the Etzion Bloc, Ariel, Nirit, the corridor, the Jordan Valley settlements, and many more places are part of the State of Israel, now and in the permanent agreement.”
Thus the self-defined "pioneers" in Sheikh Jarrah and the leaders in the Knesset have something fundamental in common – the "rejectionist consensus."