the resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank yesterday,
Israel's powerful settler movement hopes that it has scuttled peace
talks with the Palestinians.
would be misleading, however, to assume that the only major obstacle to
the success of the negotiations is the right-wing political ideology
the settler movement represents. Equally important are deeply entrenched
economic interests shared across Israeli society.
interests took root more than six decades ago with Israel's
establishment and have flourished at an ever-accelerating pace since
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the 1967 war.
many Israeli Jews living within the recognised borders of Israel
privately acknowledge that they are the beneficiaries of the seizure of
another people's lands, homes, businesses and bank accounts in 1948.
Most Israelis profit directly from the continuing dispossession of
millions of Palestinian refugees.
officials assume that the international community will bear the burden
of restitution for the refugees. The problem for Israel's Jewish
population is that the refugees now living in exile were not the only
fifth of Israel's citizens who are Palestinian but survived the
expulsions of 1948 found themselves either transformed into internally
displaced people or the victims of a later land-nationalisation
programe that stripped them of their ancestral property.
if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, signed away the rights of
the refugees, he would have no power to do the same for Israel's
Palestinian citizens, the so-called Israeli Arabs. Peace, as many
Israelis understand, would open a Pandora's box of historic land claims
from Palestinian citizens at the expense of Israel's Jewish citizens.
the threat to the economic privileges of Israeli Jews would not end
with a reckoning over the injustices caused by the state's creation. The
occupation of the Palestinian territories after 1967 spawned many other
powerful economic interests opposed to peace.
most visible constituency are the settlers, who have benefited hugely
from government subsidies and tax breaks designed to encourage Israelis
to relocate to the West Bank. Peace Now estimates that such benefits
alone are worth more than $550 million a year.
from being a fringe element, the half a million settlers constitute
nearly a tenth of Israel's Jewish population and include such prominent
figures as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.
of businesses serving the settlers are booming in the 60 per cent of
the West Bank, the so-called Area C, that falls under Israel's full
control. The real estate and construction industries, in particular,
benefit from cut-price land -- and increased profits -- made available
by theft from Palestinian owners.
businesses, meanwhile, have moved into Israel's West Bank industrial
zones, benefiting from cheap Palestinian labour and from discounted
land, tax perks and lax enforcement of environmental protections.
Much of the tourism industry also depends on Israel's hold over the holy sites located in occupied East Jerusalem.
web of interests depends on what Akiva Eldar, of the Haaretz newspaper,
terms "land-laundering" overseen by government ministries, state
institutions and Zionist organisations. These murky transactions create
ample opportunities for corruption that have become a staple for
Israel's rich and powerful, including, it seems, its prime ministers.
the benefits of occupation are not restricted to the civilian
population. The most potent pressure group in Israel -- the military --
has much to lose from a peace agreement, too.
ranks of Israel's career soldiers, and associated security services
such as the Shin Bet secret police, have ballooned during the
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