Israel’s right-wing government is now facing its own psychological wall. There are no left-wing partners to blame, only internal questions—and it’s all in the head. The crazy saga over the Regulation Law, on the stage and behind the scenes, is the best illustration of that.
Unlike the headline deliberately chosen for the law by Haaretz newspaper, not only does the law not rob land, but it is morally logical and reasonable. People who accidentally settle on private land pay damages to the original owners. That’s the case in most law systems in the world, that’s the case in official Israel, and that’s the case when it comes to Jews from Judea and Samaria who mistakenly expropriated their lands in favor of the state. Regulation is not theft; it’s a logical compromise.
The thing is that logic and legal reasonableness intentionally do not cross the Green Line in the State of Israel. Israel is the one who failed to make a decision on applying the law in these areas, Israel is the one conveying an unbaked message about the land, and Israel is the one trying to place band-aids in the form of the Regulation Law on local wounds.
About two weeks ago, at the start of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about his willingness to accept a state for the Palestinians. Beyond a short argument with Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud), who protested the concept of a state in the media, no one in Israel showed an interest in the meaning. Akunis protested and disappeared, Netanyahu spoke and fell silent. Most Israelis’ underlying assumption is that Netanyahu is bluffing when he talks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Right is convinced that he is lying in order to fool the gentiles. The Left is convinced that he doesn’t really mean it.
Compared to the Israelis, foreign journalists took his comments about a state much further. In the evening, I had two messages waiting for me from American journalists asking to discuss this new vision for the Middle East. They had a lot of questions, and I had few answers. I explained that the State of Israel was bolstering the Palestinian Authority despite its statements against us. We are the ones transferring them money and reinforcing infrastructure. I calculated for them the Palestinian territory (40 percent) where there is not a single Jew. I explained why the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley were outside the negotiation game in any possible scenario. And in the end, I argued that if Netanyahu meant anything, it is located somewhere in the range of the reality on the ground, rather than in the range of the Bar-Ilan speech. And all that in order to use easier words to say that I have no idea.
Netanyahu is against the Regulation Law, yet he spoke in favor of it. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beytenu) is against the Regulation Law, but he declared from the very beginning that he would vote in favor of it. The attorney general announced that it was unconstitutional and would not pass the High Court test, yet the law is on the table. Why? Because of the consciousness.
In the 1990s, the city of Ariel got Samaria residents to complain to the media about the temperature measuring method in the weather updates. Samaria residents wanted a forecast from one of the mountains in the area or from the district’s city. In Israel, as we know, the temperatures are not that unstable and the weatherman is not always right, but the purpose of the battle was that the news programs would show Samaria and that the weatherman would utter the name “Ariel.” It was a battle in order to feel normal, part of everyone.
Many days have passed since then. The risk assessment from the right defeated the vision of utopian peace on the left. The Arabs proved all the claims, but there is no normalization and the Regulation Law is not leading in that direction, even if it solves a problem of 100 houses.
The hesitation regarding an Israeli vision is the result of the fact that in the past decade there has been not a single governmental debate on the future of Judea and Samaria. It’s amazing when you try to calculate the amount of time dedicated to a small community like Amona or to nine homes in Ofra.
There were dozens of hours and discussions, but not a single time in which the government or the security cabinet sit down and decide on Israel’s objective regarding Judea and Samaria, how to get past the psychological wall. The Israeli Left is intentionally exaggerating about the law and its results. Lawsuits at the Hague have nothing to do with the internal Israeli political circle. The important thing is not the damage. What concerns me is the question of the benefit.