When we use terms such as “East Jerusalem”, “the settlements” or “the Palestinians” when addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the peace process, what precisely do we mean?
The words are bandied about by political lobbyists, statesmen, the media and the so-called international community (whoever they are) as though there were some clear understanding and shared perception of their meaning, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The moment the term “settlements” is used, one conjures up anything from a cluster of prefabricated caravans stuck on a barren hillside to a mass of red tiled housing units in the occupied territories.
While Yitzhar, an Israeli enclave located in the Samarian mountains just south of Nablus with a population of some 130 families, is clearly a settlement (see http://sdf.shomron.org.il/yishuv/photos/yitzhar/24.jpg), is it really appropriate to describe Gilo in the same terms (see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/GilostreetS.jpg)?
Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb to the south of the city, has some 40,000 residents. Although located just over the 1949 Armistice Green Line, it surely falls into a very different category from Yitzhar and would, in all likelihood, remain part of the Jewish State under the terms of any peace agreement. Does the U.S. Administration really expect Israelis to stop building there?
And what is “East Jerusalem”? If it comprises all areas that were under Jordanian rule prior to the Six Day War in 1967, then presumably it also includes the ancient Jewish burial ground on the Mount of Olives and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, as well as the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Do those who call for Israel to get out of East Jerusalem imagine in their wildest dreams that she would agree to withdraw from those areas?
Even the term “the Palestinians” is problematic. No serious discussion of the prospect of peace negotiations between Israel and “the Palestinians” can take place without an admission of the fact that, while the Palestinian Authority might be prepared under certain circumstances to enter into negotiations with Israel, the Hamas-led government in Gaza rejects out of hand any possibility of an accommodation with the Zionist state.
And that is why unqualified talk of a peace process, a moratorium on building in the settlements and a return to the Green Line really makes no sense. Let’s define the terms we are using and then at least we’ll know whether we’re all on the same page.