Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the people expelled from Gush Katif four years ago that within a year they would all have permanent housing solutions. It’s a bit late, as they had been promised that they would have this within two years after the expulsion, and today some 60% still are in temporary housing.
But the promise — the attitude — is encouraging none-the-less.
“We want to bring this to an end,” the prime minister said. “This means in months, certainly within the year.
“We want solutions for everyone, but solutions that will happen now. The people…especially the children, should know: ‘This is my house, this is my future, this is my place.’ It is this that calms the soul and returns things to their natural order.”
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), who is charged with assisting on this project, says it will take a bit more than a year.
Netanyahu spoke at Shomriya; he visited there, and Amatziya, yesterday — two southern communities where there are plans for former residents of Gush Katif to settle. And I quite like what he said:
“On my way here I passed a hill. I stopped the motorcade, we walked around and I climbed the hill. I have been near Tel Lachish many times, I have stood beside Tel Lachish, but as far as I can remember, I have never climbed Tel Lachish, at least not during the day. So I decided to climb it during the day.
“And before me, I saw the amazing sight of one of the most spectacularly beautiful hills, and one of the richest in our history, in the history of mankind. And it stands abandoned. Several minutes later, Zvi Hauser, the Government Secretary, joined me and said: ‘There is no one here. This is a huge site, but there are no people here.’
“So, first I would like to ask about the children. Rabbi Yuval, have the children been on Tel Lachish? This is our land. Climb the hill! Visit this hill. Lead the people of Israel and foreign tourists in climbing the hill. Sennacherib [King of Assyria] came here and conquered the area; he came and went – we are here. After that the Babylonians came; they came and destroyed, conquered; but they fell – we are here. Many others came – but we are here, we are here in the Lachish Region, at Tel Lachish. It is in our possession, part of the State of Israel, of the Jewish people who returned to its land and re-established its sovereignty.
“Near Lachish Hill there are many other regions – Efi mentioned them: there is Tel Gezer as well. Simon the Hasmonean said about Tel Gezer: ‘Not a foreign land have we conquered, but rather this is our land.’ I would like there to be young people at Tel Gezer. I would like to speak about our heritage. I would like to speak about the land; I would like to speak about our land, our history. There is no future without the past. First and foremost, we must establish the past.
“So one decision we made on the way here today at that stop was: we will rehabilitate the spectacular sites of Jewish heritage, here and there and in other sites…
“I have a request for these children, Rabbi: that they climb the hill and learn, as I think children should learn in each and every school, about our belonging here and our connection with this land. It is not by chance that we are here. I said that there is no past without a future, but the present connects the two…”
For me, these are words of hope: a prime minister eager to connect the children of Israel to our heritage.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Barak attended the dedication of a new Torah scroll at the Ohel Yitzhak synagogue in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. He was apparently there because the scroll had been donated by a prominent supporter of a soldiers welfare association.
And in this too, there is hope. The site where this synagogue stands was acquired in 1994 by a foundation backed by Irving Moskowitz. A synagogue had first been erected there in 1867. In 1904, a Hungarian synagogue was established on the site, apparently in the same building — its founders were disciples of Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the Hatam Sofer. The synagogue — which, at 100 meters away, is closer to the Temple Mount than any other synagogue — was abandoned during anti-Jewish rioting in 1938, but at one time some 5,000 Jews lived in this neighborhood.
Peace Now criticized Barak for attending this dedication.
His office stated that: “The defense minister does not need to apologize for going to a ceremony dedicating a Torah scroll at a synagogue build by Jews 142 years ago.”
Barak denied knowledge of the involvement of Moskowitz — who is central to activities to reclaim Jewish areas. But none the less…he comes out looking pretty OK.
More and more it is being shown how deep and ubiquitous are our roots here. There is left wing outrage that we should establish a presence in “the Muslim Quarter.” But before there was a Muslim Quarter, it was a Jewish neighborhood.
It is a joke, really, when the Muslims protest that we are “Judaizing” Jerusalem. This simply means strengthening our claim to what is ours.
The antithesis is the Fatah Conference, now ending, that was held in Bethlehem. If it offers hope, it is in the negative sense only of strengthening our position in the face of their radicalism and their continued embrace of their right to be violent.
Let me review here, briefly, major issues that came to the fore during the meetings last week:
They resolved not to renew peace negotiations until at least 12 preconditions are met, including: All Palestinian prisoners are released from our prisons, all settlement building is frozen, and the Gaza blockade is lifted.
They announced that they will not compromise on the refugee “right of return.”
They issued a document that BOTH eastern and western Jerusalem — including surrounding villages — must be returned to Palestinian control. The document calls this a “red line” that is not negotiable. It further maintains that lands outside and inside the Green Line have the same status.
They declared that they would continue to “make sacrifices” until all of Jerusalem was in their hands.
They maintained the right to continue the “resistance” as long as there is occupation (resistance being a deliberately ambiguous word used rather than “armed struggle”).
And they endorsed Al Aksa Brigades (which is overtly terrorist and which Abbas had previously denied had any connection to Fatah) as the armed wing of Fatah. Armed wing? For terrorism.
I ask you, if you are American, to make note of all of this information, and to use this. I believe it is our obligation to keep the dialogue on “peace” honest as much as is possible.
We know that Obama, if he refers to this Conference at all, will down play the negative aspects and speak about how we must make concessions to promote peace.
And if the Palestinians are good at anything, it is duplicity — speaking out of both sides of their mouths at once. And so, having made all the above declarations, and passed all the resolutions, they will still claim to be for peace and eager to join negotiations.
And here we see it:
In a speech before the Conference, a leader of the Brigades, Zakariya Zubeidi, said that Othman Abu Gharbiyeh, chairman of the Conference, had declared “that Fatah would never give up the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. He stressed that the endorsement of our group was parallel to the continued brandishing of the olive branch as a symbol for peace.”
The olive branch and Al Aksa Brigades. Why not, if you can get away with it?
And so I ask that you raise the issue wherever possible, exposing the unpalatable realities. Always, letters to the editor — brief and factual — are effective. Always, reminding elected officials is useful.
Today the results of the elections for the Fatah Central Committee were announced. The big news is that to a large extent the young guard has usurped the positions of the old-timers, who had held on for dear life without ever instituting reforms. Fourteen out of 18 elected seats on the Committee went to new people.
But do not be under the delusion that “new guard” means more moderate. In no way whatsoever is this the case. In fact, we see some terrorists included among those elected (and this should be pointed out whenever the issue of Fatah moderation is raised.) :
Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for his terrorist activities. Mohammad Dahlan, who was in charge of security in Gaza for Fatah at one point; I have a special antipathy for him because of his orders to bomb a school bus in Kfar Darom in 2000, never mind that he also had connections to the Karine A weapons ship. Then there is Jabil Rajoub, strongman, once in charge of security for Judea and Samaria — he was known for abuse of human rights of Palestinians.
Great guys, one and all. If this is the best that Fatah can do by way of reform, oi vey!
See the analysis of the Conference by Khaled Abu Toameh, “How Fatah has evolved into the Palestinian Ba’ath party.”
“Fatah’s sixth General Assembly has shown that the 44-year-old faction is still not ready to transform itself from a revolutionary movement into a governing body – one that cares about establishing institutions and infrastructure for the future Palestinian state.
“Instead, Fatah seems determined more than ever to maintain its status as a ‘national liberation movement.'”
A delegation of 29 Democratic Congresspersons is in the country, led by US House Majority leader Steny Hoyer.
In an interview with the Post, Hoyer praised Netanyahu, and called for the PA to drop any preconditions to negotiations. He indicated that Congress differentiated between building in eastern Jerusalem and in the West Bank (which means Congress is at odds with Obama on this issue).
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, addressing the group yesterday, said that the new Fatah platform, coupled with Palestinian unrest, “has buried any chance of coming to an agreement with the Palestinians in the next few years.”
This is how Hoyer responded — and I ask that you pay particular attention, as this is significant:
“I think that kind of pessimism, while perhaps realistic, is not helpful to moving the ball forward.”
Yikes! To be that upfront about it: Yes, the reality is that there is no chance of a peace agreement, but I don’t want to hear about it because we have to keep pretending we can make it happen.
This passes for political thinking by a major leader in the US.