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Elena Curti’s article on the West bank (The Tablet, 14 December) is in a number of ways unintentionally misleading.
Firstly, the West Bank is not a land of “no milk and honey”: much of it is enjoying increasing prosperity. It might be held that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have not done enough to improve economic conditions since 1967, but they have nonetheless very greatly improved. Nor is it a place of barriers: the barrier restricts access to Israel and to the settlements, and occupies a small percentage of the West Bank. Nor are there roads “barred” to Palestinians, though there are roads on which they need permits to travel, whereas there are many roads barred to Israelis. Nor does the barrier “confine the Palestinians to ever-shrinking portions of land”: this implies the incorrect supposition that it is being constantly moved further east.
Secondly, it certainly can be argued that parts of the barrier should be moved further west (indeed the Israeli courts have sometimes supported this), and that the security forces sometimes act with needless roughness. But the existence of the barrier and the activities of the security forces in Area C are still necessary to prevent murder. What is needed, if rights violations are to be avoided, is careful consideration of what is needed for Israel’s safety, rather than vague general accusations.
Thirdly, whatever one’s view of the settlements and the behaviour of some settlers, they are not “proliferating”. No further land has been taken for settlements since the Oslo agreements, although increasing numbers of people occupy the land previously taken. Neither the settlements nor the occupation are clearly illegal: informal advisory opinions must not be identified with official judgements after the arguments on both sides have been examined: and no official judgement has been made. Nor are the settlements an obstacle to peace: the two sides have in effect agreed that if other issues were settled and a peace agreement made, some settlements would be abandoned and others compensated for, probably by a redrawing of the border.
Israel did not “seize” the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (which it no longer occupies) in 1967, but took them over from Jordan and Egypt (who do not want them back) as part of a war for survival against a concerted effort by Jordan, Egypt and Syria to destroy Israel.
Some 96 per cent of the water on the West Bank is provided by the Palestinian Authority, 4% direct from Israel. The settlers do not control the water or the electricity, and the suggestion that they use 400 million cubic metres of water per hour is a considerable exaggeration—Israel’s total annual consumption is only five times that.
There is absolutely no basis for the assertion that Israeli soldiers stood by and watched Baruch Goldstein commit murders.
Both sides must take responsibility for the failure to negotiate a peace agreement and end the occupation altogether (as it has been ended from much of the West Bank). But the main cause is the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognise the state of Israel and guarantee that a Palestinian state would not be used as a springboard for attacks on Israel.
Harry Lesser, Bowdon, Cheshire