Israel’s growing settlements force stark choices about its future

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The country cannot remain Jewish and democratic while controlling the entire Holy Land.

By Staff | The Economist | Feb 2, 2019

Between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, the overall number of Arabs has caught up with that of Jews, and may soon exceed them.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen. President Donald Trump’s plan for the “deal of the century” has been put off. The subject is absent in campaigning for the Israeli election in April, which focuses on looming corruption charges against Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.

The Oslo accords of 1993 created a crazy quilt of autonomous zones in the lands that Israel captured in 1967. They also kindled the hope of creating a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. After much bloodshed, though, most Israelis are wary of this “two-state solution.” Today Palestinians are mostly shut off by security barriers, and divided. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank refuses to negotiate with Israel but co-operates on security. Its Islamist rival, Hamas, which runs Gaza, dares not risk another war, for now.

Besides, the growth of Jewish settlements makes a two-state deal ever harder. Establishing a Palestinian state would probably require the removal of settlers in its territory. Israel had trouble enough evicting 8,000 Jews from Gaza in 2005. There are more than fifty times as many in the West Bank.

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