Daniel W. Drezner

Not all tours of Israel are alike

Earlier today, we were given a tour of the Green Line and the physical barrier that separates Isreal proper from the West Bank (note — the Green Line and the location of the barrier are not the same thing, which is a source of furious and intractable debate some mild contestation among the interested parties.) ...

Earlier today, we were given a tour of the Green Line and the physical barrier that separates Isreal proper from the West Bank (note — the Green Line and the location of the barrier are not the same thing, which is a source of furious and intractable debate some mild contestation among the interested parties.)

We were driven to an overlook that contrasted a small Israeli settlement with the Palestinian city of Qalqilya. The settlement looks like a leafy exurb in the middle of a lot of brown, dilapidated neighborhoods. In case you were wondering, the material incentive for settlement housing is that it’s 40 percent cheaper than living in Tel Aviv, the climate is more temperate, and it’s still close to the city.

Our tour guide was a former IDF brigadier general, and without getting into specifics let’s just say that he knew an awful lot about the West Bank. He gave us a brief lecture explaining the humanitarian issues that arose with the creation of the barrier, the security gains that came from it, the economic disparity between the Palestinian cities and the settlements, and so forth.

As he was talking, a second tour group showed up and the other tour guide started talking, also in English. I sidled up to the edge of that group to listen. The second guide’s spiel was rather different. He talked about the dangers of disengaging from the West Bank, because of the possibility of a takeover by either Hamas of Hezbollah. Instability in Iraq and Jordan were also mentioned as possibilities.

Now this was a curious statement, given that Hezbollah is Shiite and based in Lebanon — they have a tacit alliance with Hamas, but would be unlikely to find hospitable ground in the West Bank under any contingency.

It turns out that this tour was run by — wait for it — AIPAC. The guide was shepherding a group of Hispanic politicians around the country.

Take from this what you will.

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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