Israeli settlements‘Systems heads’ confronted by seemingly illogical situations like to pose the question, ‘Is there another way to see this?’ And hardly anywhere is there a better place to pose that than in the continuing expansion of Israeli ‘settlements’ in the Occupied Territories.

The ‘settlement’ policy seems illogical and counterintuitive. After all, if Israel continues its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, an unacceptable outcome seems inevitable.

  • Either it becomes an apartheid regime denying human rights to a majority population and is ultimately shunned and brought down by economic sanctions and isolation.
  • Or it honors its democratic claims and becomes a secular or Islamic state as the (Arab) majority wills.

(The third possibility – that Israel commits ritual suicide in an orgy of ‘mad dog’ nuclear exchanges as Martin van Creveld once postulated – is too horrific to contemplate.)

So . . . is there another way to see this?

I think so. How about, the Israeli settlement spurt ‘in places that are least likely to be part of Israel after any two-state peace deal’ is really part of a reparations package for the 1948 nakba.

Consider that Israel has invested more than $17 billion in illegal settlements to date, excluding the costs of military occupation and subsidies to ‘settlers’ willing to move into the Occupied Territories. Unless Israel is prepared to commit a scorched earth policy upon its eventual evacuation of the Occupied Territories, all those infrastructure improvements – roads, housing, factories, etc. – will accrue to the new Palestinian state.

That $17B, of course, is nowhere near the claims that will likely be filed against Israel for lands and properties seized in 1948 once there is a recognized Palestinian entity to do the filing. Depending on which estimates are applied and what assumptions are made about inflation rates, Arab Palestinians lost between $2B and $3B in 1948 dollars, which would be somewhere between $18B and $40B today.

In other words, the Israeli investment in ‘settlements’ is a good start on reparations for its intentional displacement and expulsion of some 85% of the Arab population in 1948, and the creation of a Palestinian Diaspora numbered at over 5.1 million today.

Now, if US policymakers could see things another way, too, and shift the $3B in annual US aid to Israel toward reparations in the form of further development in Palestine . . .

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