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ISRAEL'S WEST BANK SETTLEMENT POLICY IN THE EARLY 1980s: STRATEGY, IMPACT, AND IMPLICATIONS William W. Harris ..FTER the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, Israel greatly accelerated Jewish settlement on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River. In the twelve years from 1967 to 1979 the Israelis established 8,000 settlers in the West Bank outside annexed East Jerusalem. In the four years from 1980 to 1983 the number of settlers quadrupled to over 30,000. This accelerated colonization of the West Bank came as the penultimate stage of one of the most dramatic periods in modern Middle Eastern geo-political transformation: the establishment of complete Israeli dominance in Palestine west of the Jordan River. This article will examine the accelerated colonization of the 1980-83 period in the light of the Israeli government's general strategy for the occupied territories, assess the political and demographic implications for Israel, and analyze the impact of this strategy on West Bank Palestinian society. Accelerated colonization represented the central physical element in the Begin-Shamir government's drive to anchor the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Israel. The openly expressed intention was to create such a strong Jewish presence in these areas that no future Israeli government would be able to negotiate a territorial partition of western Palestine (Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza) and no Palestinian self-determination would be possible. Such a policy foreclosed the chance of any practical resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but its proponents contemplated this with equanimity—either because they regarded fulfilling "the right of theJewish people to Eretz Yisrael" (literally the "whole land" of Israel, basically western Palestine) as more important than peace treaties or William W. Harris is a visiting scholar at SAIS. 233 234 SAIS REVIEW because they viewed perpetual confrontation as inevitable. When asked in 1979 what he would most like to be remembered for, Prime Minister Begin cited "having set the borders of Eretz Yisrael in their final form." As for dealing with the Arab-Palestinian population of the West Bank/Gaza in the context of a settlement policy, Menachem Begin took up Moshe Dayan's formula of a functional compromise, and during the negotiations for the Israel-Egypt treaty developed this into autonomy. Dayan's functional compromise envisaged a West Bank of indeterminate sovereignty—where Israel controlled security and the resource base, where Israelis could theoretically buy land and establish settlements wherever they chose (away from main Arab population centers), and where Palestinian Arabs administered themselves and remained Jordanian citizens.1 Under Labor governments before 1977 Dayan's ideas competed with Yigal Allon's territorial compromise, which had also sought to achieve the twin goals of attaining strategic control over the West Bank uplands (which dominate Israel's metropolitan heartland), and avoiding the absorption of the Arab population. Allon, however, proposed a territorial partition of the West Bank and Gaza, with Israel incorporating and colonizing primarily the thinly populated Jordan Rift as well as southern Gaza. The main areas of Arab settlement, surrounded and strategically neutralized by Israel, could then be handed over to the Jordanians or be allowed to run themselves under Jordanian/Israeli patronage.2 Most opinion in the Labor Party preferred Allon's simplicities to Dayan's complexities, and up to 1977 colonization largely followed Allon's plan (roughly forty percent of the West Bank) and only intruded on the densely settled highlands at Hebron around East Jerusalem. Menachem Begin's commitment to the "whole land" of Israel ruled out territorial compromise, and so the Allon plan was happily consigned to the wastepaper basket the moment the Likud-based coalition assumed power in 1977. Dayan's scheme, on the other hand, had the merit of encompassing the entire territory while proposing a means by which Israel could incorporate the land without incorporating its Arab inhabitants . Begin's version, which provided the basic guidelines for Israeli activities in the occupied territories in the early 1980s, left no doubt about absolute Israeli sovereignty. The Palestinian Arabs could control their own administrative affairs (which was Begin's understanding of the "full autonomy" referred to in the 1978 Camp David documents), but autonomy would be personal, not territorial...


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