The Greatest Supporters of the Settlement Movement

In the midst of the euphoria of the aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel saw an opportunity to buy peace. They had captured territory twice the size of Israel, and they thought that they could exchange this victory (and territory) for a lasting peace.

The Arab response to Israeli’s overture was the famous “Three No’s” of the Khartoum conference following the war:

No peace with Israel

No recognition of Israel

No negotiations with it

But even in the face of Arab intransigence, Israel still held on to the hope that the Arabs would take the opportunity for peace. Against the strong opposition by religious parties, the Israeli government denied repeated requests to build settlements in the West Bank.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase Abba Eban, past foreign minister of Israel:

The Arabs never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Eventually, Gush Emmunim (Block of the Faithful) would force Israel’s hand and launch the first settlement in the West Bank – on the site of the Jewish town massacred by the Arabs in 1948. Even then, settlement activity was a mere trickle.

The Israeli government was still holding out hope for peace.

Then the Yom Kippur War shocked Israel and brought her to her senses. Israel had a powerful desire for peace and a place among the nations. That desire combined with her great self-confidence encouraged a lack of preparedness that resulted in a war with almost ten thousand Israeli casualties (2565 dead and 7250 wounded).

It was a catastrophe.

As a result, the Israeli government was forced to resign, allowing Menachem Begin’s right wing Likud party to gain power.

Settlement activity went from a trickle to a flood.

It is ironic to see that the greatest supporters of the settlement movement have been the Arabs themselves.