Colonists should be balanced by refugees

Eugene Rogan; 31/3/10

The colony issue is an old source of tension between America and Israel. For US President Barack Obama it has emerged as the greatest obstacle to his goal of resolving Israeli-Palestinian differences through meaningful negotiations. As the Obama administration ponders a new Middle East peace plan, it needs a new direction on colonies that both Israelis and Palestinians can live with. The international community is agreed that a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in a two-state land-for-peace settlement on the basis of the pre-1967 boundaries. Yet a fallacy persists, that somehow these two states should be ethnically pure: that Israel should be uniquely Jewish, and Palestine uniquely Arab. The truth is that the population of Israel and the Occupied Territories is highly intermixed. There are 1.2 million Palestinians of Israeli citizenship — nearly 20 per cent of the population of Israel. And there are nearly 400,000 Israeli citizens living in colonies in occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank. When at some future date Israel and the Palestinian National Authority agree to a peace deal, there is no reason to expect this trend to reverse. Peace should accelerate exchanges of goods and people in the region.