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The West Bank as Israel’s Texas

In his post, “Understanding the Permanence of Greater Israel,” Andrew Sullivan quotes Rhubarb Preserve:

This is what really put Israel’s occupation and settlement of the West Bank in perspective for me: Israel has possessed the West Bank for almost precisely the same proportion of its national existence as the United States has possessed Texas and California. About seven-tenths. That is, Israel has occupied the West Bank for 71 percent of the time since national independence in 1948; the United States has possessed Texas and California for 69 percent of the time since national independence in 1776.

Imagine an American claiming that possession of Texas and California was not in some way fundamental to the character of the nation. Imagine if American border politics was predicated on the claim that possession of Texas and California was temporary and both would someday be returned to Mexican sovereignty. Preposterous! A United States without Texas and California would not be the United States anymore. Though it might keep its name, it would be a fundamentally different nation. Even more, the United States would first have to become an existentially different nation before it would even consider peaceably permitting California and Texas to leave the union.

Just so with Israel. Despite protestations otherwise, possession of the West Bank has become a fundamental and existential part of the character of Israeli nationhood. Possession of the West Bank is not temporary, it is not contingent, and it is not an exception to the general rule of the character of Israeli nationhood. Occupation and settlement are as central to the Israeli nation, its politics and culture, as burritos, Hollywood, and Sunbelt conservatism are to American politics, culture, and national identity.