Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Israeli Government's New Law Enforcement Hypocritical, says Think Tank

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Amona Syndrome or Two

By Yisrael Ne'eman, of Middle East on Target. Reprinted with permission from Elliot Chodoff.

Over 200 were injured in last week’s clash between security forces and settlement activists at the Amona outpost on the edge of the West Bank ( Judea and Samaria) development of Ofra. Nine permanent structures built by settlers on Palestinian lands were torn down by the government. The left wing Peace Now movement brought this to the attention of the authorities even though it appears the Palestinians themselves were in the process of selling the property.

Just a few years ago it would be a non-issue if Jewish homes were built on Palestinian lands during their sale. Today, and especially after the Gaza and northern Samaria Disengagement of August 2005 radical changes are in place. If permanent settlements can be removed then there is no question concerning illegal (by Israeli law) outposts. There are another 22 to go.

The message is political/diplomatic. Acting PM Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party is committed to Ariel Sharon’s platform of “demographic boundaries” ensuring a Jewish majority in the State of Israel to the detriment of retaining the entire Land of Israel. The agreement made with the Americans committing Israel to take down all outposts built after March 2001 is the excuse, but the real answer is in the policy of unilateralism being pushed by Olmert and supported by Labor. Just to Kadima’s right is the Yisrael Beitanu Party led by Avigdor Leiberman who also hints strongly that they support such policies.

Ofra is seen to be outside Israel’s permanent borders-to-be. If such a neighborhood was built on the edge of an existing settlement inside the fence it is doubtful anyone would be enforcing the Supreme Court decision. All would seek compromise (as is happening in Modi’in Elite at the moment).

Over the years everyone duped everyone else with a wink and a nod. For decades settlement leaders from the regional councils in Judea and Samaria built illegally and received monies and legal cover from Knesset members, ministers and the government after the fact. Ariel Sharon was # 1 conniver. Olmert expressed no objections nor did other former Likud members in Kadima of today.

In true Israeli fashion we sent the ideologues forward to lead the people and the power elite stood behind them. Sacrificing the people in the name of development and security has always been part of the nation building syndrome. Look at the immigrants sent to development towns in the Galilee and Negev in the 1950s and 1960s far from the center of the country to guarantee population dispersal and Israel’s borders after the War of Independence. They were given not much better than minimum wage jobs in the Histadrut (Labor Union) industries and built an economy as they were exploited by state capitalism while the government reinvested in infrastructure. Kibbutz and moshav ideologues went to the frontiers, farming by day and guarding by night in the name of the socialist, agricultural and secular Jewish national ideal. Today they are marginalized, privatized and bankrupt ideologically. Those who moved to Sinai in the 1970s were removed by 1982 (Ariel Sharon was defense minister and plowed down their homes) to enable peace with Egypt. Very few doubted then or now that such a move was a mistake.

The difference is that with their Land of Israel ideals the National Religious settled anywhere and everywhere. The law was of no significance as they followed Godly (led by the rabbis) exhortations. As opposed to the above mentioned groups certain parts of the younger generation of the National Religious separated themselves from the secular Jewish State and became a master unto themselves, going so far as to reject the Yesha Council leadership and members of Knesset from both the hard line secular and religious right. They were perceived as selling out by participating in the secular state apparatus.

Furthermore, enforcing the law seemed like an enormous plot to undermine the right of the Jewish People to the Land. The law was not enforced before, so why now? The world did not see legality to the housing developments where they lived and many of their families settled illegally (by Israeli law) but gained law abiding status in the aftermath. The long sustained legal evasion and law breaking was “the norm.” Law enforcement was considered theoretical and extraordinarily out of place.

As in a chess game some pawns will be sacrificed and others will survive. For 30 years the legitimacy of the State was undermined once one stepped across the 1949 -1967 armistice lines. For the settlers, today's “arbitrary” law enforcement is a rule change.

For the government such law enforcement is a tool to realize a larger domestic and foreign policy goal of a democratic Jewish State in alliance with the USA. It is no surprise that so many on both sides of the argument view these efforts of “law enforcement” with such a heavy dose of cynicism.

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