As I mentioned last night, in the growing confrontation between Obama and Netanyahu over settlement policy, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) managed to say something incredibly stupid, buying into the most hysterical settler propaganda. Here’s Ackerman’s press release from earlier this week. It’s kind of a funny read. Because it has Ackerman trying to sort of support Obama but also bending over backwards to say that the real issue is not settlements but Palestinian terrorism and Iranian centrifuges.
In any case, here’s the key passage I want to focus on. Ackerman says …
I do not believe in, and I do not support a settlement freeze that calls on Israeli families not to grow, get married, or forces them to throw away their grandparents. Telling people not to have children is unthinkable and inhumane. Real life is messy and the exigencies of any vibrant population need to be acknowledged and accommodated.
In other words, Ackerman sees himself as taking a hardline against Obama’s call for forced contraception and denial of marriage rights to settlers. This is so silly it’s actually a challenge to explain. Gershom Gorenberg actually explains it pretty well here. But the essence is this. What we’re talking about is the right to have your kids build their house and start their family down the street from you when they get married — a ‘right’ few people in the world have.
There’s some important context to understand here. A good number of the settlements are deep into the West Bank. But in modern transportation terms, most function as bedroom communities that are a reasonable commute from cities in Israel proper, where many of the settlers actually work. So, you live in settlement X, maybe when your daughter gets married and wants to start her own family there’s no more room in the settlement and she and her husband have to buy a home fifteen miles away in Israel proper. To say such a freeze amounts to throwing away grandparents or telling people not to have children is really malicious nonsense.
More broadly, this whole debate is really about getting as many people settled in these settlement areas as possible and making a Palestinian state simply unworkable. That’s the big picture. To create a Palestinian state at least most of the settlements (keep in mind the difference between ‘settlers’ and ‘settlements’, because the numbers are very different when you get into questions of geographical dispersion of relatively small settlements) must not just be stopped from growing but actually dismantled and evacuated. That is what this is all about. Are the settlements permanent or not. That’s what all the electricity about a ‘freeze’ of settlements is about.