I've written about this a couple of times in recent days, and find it important to return to the subject now.
Beit HaShalom (House of Peace) is the large house in Hevron -- on the road called Worshippers' Way, leading from adjacent Kiryat Arba to the Ma'arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) -- that was purchased by the Jewish community. It is within the area of Hevron controlled by Israel. Title to the property is being challenged by the prior owner (a Palestinian who would be in considerable hot water with the PA for selling to Jews).
Anyone genuinely conversant with the situation is able to see that the current furor over ownership of the building is political and not legal. The community has extensive documentation regarding the purchase, some of which -- astonishingly -- even the attorney general has refused to look at. We are dealing with several factors here, including a government more interested in placating the Arabs than protecting Jewish rights and a defense minister who -- facing an election in which his party, Labor, is expected to show abysmally poor results -- is courting an "anti-settler" left wing by being "tough." There is no question but that this government would be quite content -- in defiance of Jewish rights and traditions and legal standing -- to turn all of Hevron over to the Arabs.
The High Court has said that while a lower court is deciding on the ownership of the property, the government may (not "must") evacuate the building. The government has decided it will do so. Some days ago it was thought that the evacuation would take place, but it was delayed. Two days ago, border police began moving into Hevron in numbers that suggested that an evacuation was imminent. Word went out then that it was time for those prepared to give support to the residents (some 20 plus families) to come. And come they have, by the hundreds. Some adults and primarily young people.
Yesterday there were reports of violent clashes between local Arabs and young people at Beit HaShalom. Arutz Sheva cited local Jewish residents who said the Arabs were incited by a photojournalist to throw rocks at the Jewish area and young Jews then responded in kind. From there the situation escalated.
Today David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hevron, explained that there was quiet about 98% of the time over the past 20 months that Jews have been living in Beit HaShalom. What has happened is that the Israeli government decision to remove the residents, and to challenge their right to be there, has served as incitement to the Arabs, who now see themselves as having the upper hand: They see the Jews as not being supported by their own government (to the everlasting shame of the government).
Yesterday, an Arab on the roof of a building some 30 or 40 feet away from Beit HaShalom threw a large rock. It hit the head of 16 year old Elyasav Asban, who may have suffered permanent brain damage.
When I entered Beit HaShalom today, my first thought was: "This? This is what the government is making the fuss about." An expansive, multi-story building, it is largely in a primitive state, with bare concrete walls, metal girders exposed, etc. Certain areas have been sectioned off to make apartments, some of which have had dry-wall added and have the accoutrements of normal living -- normal bathrooms, kitchens, etc.
All about I saw religious young people. Some were sitting and talking or eating, some praying, some studying religious texts. On the grounds around Beit HaShalom, and within the building, there was a sense of peacefulness (I use the word with full consciousness). While I cannot swear that none of these young people are itching to be violent (there is certainly reason to believe that a small handful may be itching for it), an ambiance of violence was not in the air. I cannot offer proof, but it has been suggested that those few who may be violent-prone are plants, sent there to incite.
What I saw also was that the media representatives there tended to ask the leaders of the community questions that exposed their bias: Questions of the "Why are you allowing these young people to be violent?" sort. If only these troublesome "settlers" would play by the "rules" there would be no problem.
The position of the leadership of the community is clear: We do not condone violence, they say, or instruct these young people to ever be violent. (David Wilder said some young people who vandalized were sent away.) But neither will we back off passively. This is our property. We bought it legally. In any other country this would have been acknowledged by now. We want only to be allowed to live in peace here. If the police are foolish enough to try to evict us then we will not go quietly. And we will not rein in the young people as they respond in self-defense.
They, the leadership, and the young people present, know that the people of Gush Katif went quietly and were subsequently not treated with fairness by the government. The lesson has been learned.
"We will not go quietly." If the government is foolish enough to proceed, there will be blood.
For me these people continue to be heroes. Risking physical harm, they are prepared to stand strong for the right of Jews to live in the land of Israel, on property that has been acquired legally.
They are drawing a line in the sand and saying, no more. The lesson is for the government and for all those who envision a division of the land that calls for the residents of Judea and Samaria to be evicted from their homes. Should this be attempted, there would be civil war.
There is so much to be attended to, that the government should invest energy on this is pathetic. Not to mention that the specter of Jew against Jew is obscene and to be avoided. But this requires the government to be smart about it. And not only are they not smart, they misrepresent. Olmert just made this statement:
“There are phenomena that one cannot come to terms with, and the government that I am heading is unable to accept them.”
This shows that he's tough.
“The debate on the Land of Israel is legitimate, and the resolve to keep a Jewish presence in the holiest and most significant of our cities is understood. However, this resolve must not overpower the court’s decision.”
Two lies here. The first is his laughable pretense of sympathy for the cause, as he is itching to give away Judea and Samaria. Olmert? Describing Hevron as"the holiest and most significant of our cities"? The second is his comment about "the court's decision," as if the government is merely following a court order to evict, when in fact eviction is at the option of the government.
This story is not yet over.
On to an entirely different subject:
Obama has selected Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Susan Rice as ambassador to the UN, Gen. James Jones as national security advisor, and is allowing Robert Gates to remain as defense secretary.
Other than pondering how Obama supporters hoping for a "change" feel about these several re-runs (Rice being the only truly new face), I do not intend to consider here the several implications for the US of these appointments.
I, rather, want to focus on the way in which Obama's policies will impinge on Israel and the Mid-East --succinctly now, with considerably more to follow over time, of course.
In some measure, we are facing a "wait and see" situation. But there are some things that need to be said up front.
Hillary and Bill Clinton, alike, are widely considered to be "pro-Israel." I would suggest otherwise. President Clinton was an Arab appeaser who did us great harm. Over and over he invited Arafat to the White House -- more often than he invited any head of state -- as a foolish and futile inducement when Arafat didn't fulfill commitments. This empowered Arafat and ultimately sent the message that he didn't have to honor commitments.
Then, in his rush to push through a "peace deal" before leaving office (this rush, you see, is endemic to retiring presidents), Clinton was willing to apply pressure on Israel to make concessions, even though he knew that Arafat could not be relied upon. He was after the photo-op on the lawn, not what was in his ally's best interest from a perspective of either rights or security.
Hillary was consistently to the left of her husband. So she's going to have to prove her pro-Israel credentials.
And Jones? He has a reputation here of tilting pro-Palestinian during the time he has served under Condoleezza Rice as a special security envoy to Israel and the PA. He has touted a plan for having us draw back from Judea and Samaria and then bringing in NATO forces to fight terrorism, as it's acknowledged that the PA isn't really up to it. This is a terrible plan, about which I will say more later. Jones needs to be watched, and, as appropriate, opposed by our government (which is very much against a use of NATO forces).
Obama has not yet appointed a special envoy to the Middle East, but two names that have been bandied about are Jimmy Carter and Daniel Kurtzer, who has been serving Obama in an advisor capacity. Neither one is remotely a friend or objective in the broadest sense. Some people are under the impression that Kurtzer, a Jew and former US ambassador to Israel, is a supporter of Israel. It's not so. He has long espoused the position that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the core of the tensions in the Middle East, which is blatantly erroneous. And he believes in strongly pressuring Israel. I see Kurtzer's positions reflected in some Obama comments.
Most disconcerting to me when Obama announced his appointments was a statement he made regarding his priorities: assuring that Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons, bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and "strengthening international institutions."
The first priority is laudable. It remains to be seen how he intends to go about this and if he is prepared to launch a military attack if all else fails.
The second is troublesome, for it implies -- as I've suggested above -- that he sees a resolution of this conflict as being at the core of matters in the ME. In the week that saw the Mumbai disaster, it is regrettable that he did not list as a priority of the highest order (for it IS a priority of the highest order) winning the war against Islamic jihadism and its use of terror. If this war is not won very little else will matter. Will he have blinders on with regard to this? Is he -- this is almost surely the case -- far too politically correct to name the enemy that seeks to destroy us?
Lastly, the notion of endowing "international institutions" (most notably the corrupt and totally anti-Israeli UN) with further power means relinquishing American power in a manner that can have serious consequences for us all.
I want to mention here a most disturbing report that has just been released, which impinges upon the subject of Obama policy in the ME. I will follow through tomorrow with more extensive analysis.
This report, which was 18 months in the making, is entitled "Restoring the Balance - A Middle East Strategy for the Next President." It comes to us courtesy of Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center.
According to the Jerusalem Post: It recommends dialogue at all levels with Iran; it says military confrontation with Iran might not be worth the effort, and that it might be necessary to accommodate a nuclear Iran.
With regard to the "peace process," it says that Palestinian unity is necessary so that there is one diplomatic address for negotiations, and to that end Hamas should be incorporated into the Palestinian Authority.
A great deal indeed to say about this...