ONE of the most contentious aspects of Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership has been his expansion of the so-called settlements’ building programme in the West Bank. Only this week he has announced that he plans to build thousands more housing units in Ma’ale Adumim, expanding the town and annexing the additional land to Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister stated unequivocally: “This place will be part of the State of Israel.” There are arguments for and against Netanyahu’s settlements’ building policy. There are those who see his actions as deliberately inflammatory and creating insurmountable obstacles to peace. Others are happy to see Israel establishing footholds on territory which, under the terms of the Balfour Declaration, would actually have been part of the original Jewish state.
Should many of these new Jewish communities be referred to as ‘settlements’ or should they actually be termed ‘resettlements’? Four Gush Etzion communities fell during the 1948 War of Independence. The return of Israelis to that region after the Six Day War (19 years later) is seen as the symbolic heart of the settlement movement — or more correctly, the resettlement movement.
Transjordan, actually Jordan today and beyond, should have been Jewish territory according to the Balfour Declaration. Most of the so-called settlements have been constructed on land which should have been part of the newly-established State of Israel in 1948. Thus indignation over Netanyahu’s expansion programme might well be somewhat misplaced.