An Economic Solution to the Settlement Issue

The settlement issue will be resolved in one of four ways: the Jews will voluntarily move inside the borders of the State of Israel; they will stay in their homes and live in a Palestinian state, they will be dragged out kicking and screaming, or they will be paid to move. Since polls show that a majority of settlers would leave their homes for money, some left-wing Jews believe they can hasten the resolution of the issue by raising money, or getting the U.S. government to pay, to buy out the settlers. The idea of compensating the settlers is a good one; the problem is that the proposal demonstrates once again that it is liberal Jews who care far more about “Palestine” than the Arabs.

First, the left starts with the fundamentally flawed proposition that settlements are the obstacle to peace. No one has ever produced a scintilla of evidence for this idea. The only example of an Arab leader saying that he was prepared to make peace, but refusing to do so unless settlements were dismantled was Anwar Sadat. Menachem Begin had to decide whether the settlements in Sinai were more important than peace with Egypt and called Ariel Sharon for advice. Sharon told him to dismantle the settlements and, later, was responsible for dragging the settlers who resisted the order out of Yamit. So much for the “obstacle.”

More recently, Barak offered to dismantle settlements if Yasser Arafat would make peace, but Arafat refused. The obstacle to peace is Arab rejectionism.

Second, why should Americans pay to “redeem” the land of Palestine for the Palestinians? Why don’t the Arabs do it? After all, prior to 1948, how did the Zionists build their state? They bought land, usually at exorbitant prices, from Arabs who cared more for money than for the land. In fact, this is still the case as wealthy Jews purchase land from Arabs in the Old City and elsewhere. Even the Palestinian Authority’s threats to kill Arabs who sell land to Jews has been ineffective. A century ago Transjordan’s King Abdullah admitted “the Arabs are as prodigal in selling their land as they are in useless wailing and weeping.”

The Palestinian Authority has received more than $6 billion in aid from the international community. Not one penny has been used to build houses for refugees in camps they control. Why doesn’t Abu Ala take whatever money hasn’t been stolen by Arafat and his cronies, and offer to buy the settlements and use them to house refugees? Palestinian officials have no trouble financing huge villas for themselves, why can’t they find money to buy Jewish homes for poor Palestinians?

Where are all the Arab-Americans who express such concern about the Palestinians? Why didn’t the recently departed Edward Said take the royalties from one of his screeds and use it to buy land in Palestine? Come to think of it, how many Palestinians in the United States have moved to the PA in the last 10 years to help build the state they demand?

What about the rest of the Arabs who the media tells us believe the Palestinian question is the most important issue in their lives? An article in the Washington Post a few months ago said a Lebanese billionaire plans to build the second largest house in the United States. Why doesn’t he use some of his money to buy homes in the West Bank?

The Saudis scream the loudest about the poor Palestinians. Instead of spending billions on real estate in New York (and to support terrorist operations), why don’t they send a prince with a suitcase full of cash to some of the settlements and see if there are any takers?

Despite the image, most Jews who live in the territories do so for economic, not ideological reasons; they were able to get nice homes at affordable prices that are not far from their places of business. Most of these Jews will probably not have to leave their homes in a peace settlement because the new border will be drawn around them, just as the security fence is being built around them.

The Jews in settlements that are more isolated, often surrounded by large Arab populations, and comprised of the more idealistic Jews are the ones that will face the four choices described in my lead. Why not test their convictions with the lure of cash? I’m sure that there are some settlers who can’t be bought at any price, but how many families do you think would turn down offers of millions of dollars?

King Abdullah’s father, Sherif Hussein, said last century, “One of the most amazing things until recent times was that the Palestinian used to leave his country, wandering over the high seas in every direction. His native soil could not retain a hold on him.” This has remained true to this day as Palestinians try to flee to Jordan (which now refuses them entry).

War and diplomacy haven’t worked very well, so why not try an economic approach to resolving the conflict? If the Palestinians and Arabs really want the land as badly as they say they do, then they should be willing to pay for it. As has been the case since the beginning of the Zionist movement, however, only the Jews believe the land is worth the price.