Regulation in the name of normalcy
Op-ed: Amona’s residents are not responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ‘Regulation Bill’ is rational and correct even if it won’t include Amona retroactively. And if it’s all just a spin, the residents should be told—not just by the High Court judges, but by the political echelon as well.
We sat in the home of Rabbi Yair Frank, the community rabbi. We met as children long before he became a rabbi. Children the same age in a small community. His grandfather taught us math, his brother started a chess class, and kids like me mainly got in the way. We reminisced about old stories from before we became involved in politics. We spoke about Yaki (a friend from the problematic kids department), who was great at stealing donkeys and stealing kisses from demure when we grew up . A hopeless child who today sits in New York with his own startup company worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
I was interested in judo and military affairs until I found myself dealing with words, and he became a rabbi with nine children (which is the main part of the story I find difficult to imagine. Four seems like an globally agreed upon limit to me).
We were raised in relative normalcy. Before the intifadas, we used to go with our teacher to the olive press in the nearby village without security guards. Palestinians entered and left the community, and the path from Petah Tikva to Ariel was through one road that crossed the villages. The political argument had no implications on our childhood, only on the future.
If only the state wanted to make up its mind
The normalcy claim is also the basis for the Amona residents’ battle, a moment before the implementation of the High Court ruling, which has been postponed time and again. Yair Frank and Avichai Boaron, who are leading the battle, claim didn’t know they were settling on private land when they arrived there 20 years ago. I believe them. The state supplied them with electricity and water and gave them mortgages. They arrived, realized the problem too late, and are now waging a battle. They have the right to wage a battle, which is faced by the state’s right to decide. If only it wanted to make up its mind.
I am in favor of the “Regulation Bill” in the name of normalcy. A law for those who settle on private land and live there for years in Givat Shmuel or in Binyamin. Financial compensation as an alternative to evacuation. Jew or Arab. On the other hand, a swift and aggressive evacuation of those who intentionally steal lands, regardless of the political movement, camp, religion or party they are affiliated with.
Their problem is that from a discussion on real estate beyond the Green Line, Amona has turned into a political symbol and business. The moment Arabs began making claims to the land, the state was reluctant to decide. Instead, the High Court took over. It is convenient to blame the High Court due to its involvement in the selection of its judges and due to judicial activism. All these should be examined—democracy cannot be mourned against every justice minister trying to do that – but after all that, the relations between the authorities are an intentional product. There is a judicial authority, a legislative authority, an executive authority and a new authority—the authority for solving problems and putting out fires—the High Court.
That’s what is happening with the Western Wall outline, when the government is afraid of the ultra-Orthodox parties (at the cost of strategically damaging relations with the Diaspora Jewry). That’s what is happening with Amona. In this mess, the High Court feels like an alternative to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. The legal issue here becomes marginal when this is the case.
In Israel, such land disputes are usually solved with a compromise. From Carmiel to Moshe Zar’s 90 dunams, which were unintentionally expropriated in Samaria. Compensation fixes mishaps which occurred in the past. In the Negev, for example, the court even prefers to let intentional Bedouin invaders (in Bir Hadaj or in al-Zarnog) get away with it. Not in Amona. Because there is no one to make a decision.
I don’t have any special sentiment toward Amona. One of the main problems, in my opinion, is the disproportional political lobby in Judea and Samaria. When it comes to legal proceedings, the evacuation of an illegal community, no matter where it is, is far from being a destruction of the temple. There is no difference between that community and Givat Amal in Tel Aviv or a dispute in the Negev.
In the Galilee, a serious battle has been waged over NIS 18 billion (roughly $4.75 billion) that have been promised by the government and disappeared. This battle is much more important, in my opinion, than the petitions signed in the Likud or the high-profile discussions of the Lobby for Eretz Israel. In Amona there are only 40 families; in the Galilee, there are thousands. And in general, politics has applied the term “Land of Israel” exclusively to communities located in Judea and Samaria. Zionist symbols like Tel Hai and Kfar Blum have been left out of the lobby’s agenda. Amona hasn’t. It’s a political, moral and Zionist error that must be amended.
It’s the same when money is wasted on sawing houses in Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood (the remnants still lie abandoned somewhere), or when the Agriculture Ministry builds youth cultural centers in urban communities that don’t have a single agricultural crop because of the person heading the ministry.
Nonetheless, Amona is an injustice, and what concerns me is the method of putting out fires. The failure to understand that 50 years in Judea and Samaria is long enough to demand a vision, order, a plan and an end to deals.
Amona’s residents deserve fair treatment. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not their responsibility. The “Regulation Bill” is rational and correct even if it will not include Amona retroactively. And if it’s all just a spin, the residents should be told. Not just by the High Court judges, but by the political echelon as well.