These are particularly tough times for Israel (and for Jews more broadly). The situation demands steady nerves and absolute determination to pursue our course with conviction. Is is difficult, indeed, not to be deflected by rage, which enervates, or to fall into depression, the flip side of that rage.
The world, which has turned upside down, is smoldering, and on the cusp of bursting into flames.
But in the face of consummate and breathtaking evil, attacking Israel occupies the attention of the western world. For we have done something that is deemed terrible: we have allocated close to 1,000 acres in the Gush Etzion area as state land available for future housing.
Shocking, isn’t it? Never mind that Islamists are raping women in large numbers, or that there are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, or that ISIS has beheaded two American journalists. Or that Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas politburo, has said Hamas will never relinquish its “sacred” weapons, and is prepared, as necessary to return to “resistance” until its goals (destruction of Israel) are reached. The EU and the US have time to harshly criticize Israel:
The US has formally asked Israel to reverse the decision on this land.
The EU has said this decision constitutes “an obstacle to peace and threatens to render the two state solution impossible.”
There has been “condemnation” of Israel’s action in several quarters, and Britain warned that this would “threaten” our “standing” in the international community.
Allow me, then, to respond with pertinent background information.
The land in question is largely in Gush Etzion, a bloc of Jewish communities south east of Jerusalem that is solidly tied to Israel’s history – and to the modern history of Jews in the Land even before the founding of Israel. See: http://www.gush-etzion.org.il/history.asp
It is unthinkable that this area would ever be part of a “Palestinian state,” and the notion that building here would render the “two state solution” impossible is unmitigated nonsense.
It is simply that the world has decided we have no rights to land beyond what is referred to as the “pre-1967 border” but is in fact a 1949 temporary armistice line. An irrational fixation with that “Palestinian state” persists at all costs. A fixation that we must counter.
In point of fact, the Oslo II Interim Agreement, as elucidated in a briefing by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “established a division of the West Bank into three areas: Area A, where the Palestinians had full control, Area B where there was mixed Israeli and Palestinian security control but full Palestinian civil control, and Area C, where Israel had full military and civilian control. Israeli responsibilities in Area C included the power of zoning and planning. The territory which Israel declared as state land is within Area C.” (Emphasis added)
Oslo aside for the moment, matters of land allocation in Judea and Samaria are complicated precisely because Israel has not annexed the area. There is a layering of laws going back to the pre-Mandate Ottoman period; the Mandate period (1922 – 1948), when Great Britain was the administrator; through the period of illegal Jordanian occupation (1949 – 1967; and since to the present with Israel as administrator.
Broadly, land in Judea and Samaria falls into one of three legal categories: state land, private land, and land whose status is to be determined. The area in question had the status of territory whose status is to be determined. However, an investigation was required before the change of status to state land could be announced: That lengthy investigation, completed this summer, determined its status. No private Arab ownership was uncovered. Now there will be a window of opportunity for those who might wish to contest this finding. And as we are looking at a bureaucratic process, it will be some time before any actual building is done.
This, then, is what the furor is about.
All of this has to do with the resumption of the “peace process.” A linkage that is without reason has been made: now that there is a ceasefire (still temporary) between Israel and Hamas, Israel must go back to the table to negotiate with the PA. How that is – when Abbas sat at the table with Hamas in Cairo and has not pulled out of the unity agreement – is unclear.
I’ve written several times lately about the difficulty of determining where our prime minister stands, as his statements and policies do not seem consistent. I wrote this with regard to the goals of the war with Hamas, but it applies, as well here with Israel’s stand against the international community.
I do not for a moment consider the pressures being brought to bear on Netanyahu to be anything less than horrendous. But this is what I’m seeing:
According a report in Arutz Sheva two days ago, in response to the June 12 abduction and murder of Gilad Sha’ar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah, Netanyahu had ordered for bids to go out on 2,500 housing units – in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos in the Judea and Samaria communities of Ariel, Emanuel, and Beitar Illit.
“The bid publications were prepared and ready to go – until Netanyahu at the very last minute waffled and changed his mind, canning the plan right before it was to be published. (Emphasis added)
According to Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit “the international pressure placed on Israel during and following Operation Protective Edge…led Netanyahu to fear an international ‘crisis’ if he were to announce plans for new Jewish houses.”
These were plans for new housing in areas where Israeli development already existed and yet were deemed too controversial. Yet now an announcement has been made for a new area to be considered state land, and Netanyahu has allowed this to go through.
Gil Hoffman of the JPost says that Netanyahu permitted this for political reasons: with Naftali Bennett besting him in polls as the right wing leader of the nation, he had to show his nationalist credentials.
Perhaps. But the fact is that he did it. He presumably made the judgment that it is possible to withstand the international furor. A lesson that should not be lost.
On the issue of negotiations, Netanyahu is showing strength right now.
In the face of Abbas’s peace plan (which I will track in more detail in following posts), our government has made it clear that we will not deal with a PA government that has Hamas backing.
This is prec
isely as it should be, for starters. (I can think of many reasons not to negotiate with a PA government even if it were no longer backed by Hamas.)
In addition, according to Israel’s Channel 2, yesterday, before the Gaza war Netanyahu had told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that his government would no longer release prisoners convicted of terrorists acts as a gesture to Abbas.
Considering the disasters we’ve encountered as a result of terrorists who were released (and never should have been), no other position is possible.
This is not going to play well with the US, or with the PA. Or, I would assume, with the EU. But it is a position that absolutely must be maintained – and which may, in and of itself, preclude negotiations because of what Abbas will demand.
It is, I believe, the mandate of our prime minister and his government to stand strong for Israel – for Israeli rights and Israeli security both. A tough mandate, given the pressures and the complex decisions that must be made, and a very necessary one. More necessary, perhaps, than at any other time. Appearance of Israeli weakness or doubt as to Israel’s rights would be a disservice to the nation.
Along with this, there is a mandate to present Israel’s positions in a clear, forthright manner, in public forums and for the media.
And it is, then, the mandate of all who care about Israel, to stand with the prime minister in this time as he stands for Israel’s rights and security. This means speaking out in a forthright way for Israel and missing no opportunity to broadcasts the facts. which are so little understood. It also means exposing the evil and the duplicity of the PA, which continues to be embraced by the international community.
Here I ask, please, that you communicate with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Do it with courtesy and brevity. Encourage him to stand strong against a perverse international community that will never be pleased no matter what Israel does. Implore him to speak for Israel’s rights and security. And ensure him that you will salute him for this, and stand with him – and speak out for Israel in your community.
E-mail: Memshala@pmo.gov.il and also email@example.com (underscore after pm) use both addresses.
Do not write to ask Obama or Kerry to support Israel – it would be an absolute waste of your energy, as they have an agenda that will not change. But please do reach out to your elected representatives in Congress in support of Israel, as often as it seems necessary to do so.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
I will, to the best of my ability, continue to provide information on the political/diplomatic situation – so that ramifications and processes might be understood, and on the devious machinations of Abbas. Please, my friends, use my material.
And there is something else I expect to do, as well:
As many of you know, Jeff Daube, head of ZOA in Israel, and I co-chair “Legal Grounds – the Campaign for Israel’s Rights in Judea and Samaria.” During the war we were silent, because we understood what came first and where attention had to be focused.
Now it’s time to begin the campaign again. I will be providing information on what we have done to date and what we yet hope to do. I encourage the interest and the participation of my readers. With the international push to get us to surrender our rights in Judea and Samaria, and to negotiate a “Palestinian state,” this campaign assumes enormous importance for Israel’s future.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.