The settlement construction bluff
Op-ed: Every decision to build in Judea and Samaria could serve as a basis for a debate—except there is no decision, only press releases. Israelis are being led down the garden path with declarations about a construction that isn’t happening, while the international community is being deceived with a construction freeze when a few homes are built.
In a normal world, the construction of 410 buildings makes no change and receives no headlines. Here, as part of the disproportional preoccupation with Judea and Samaria, every home and every small community like Amona have become a strategic thing.
Disproportion is one problem. The second and more important problem is the message and the vision, or the lack thereof. Israel is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. The settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria has established facts on the ground which make it impossible to return to the 1967 borders. The range of possibilities is very limited for every prime minister, yet Israel is acting differently.
Every few Saturdays, I travel to my parents, who live several kilometers east of the Green Line. The road leading to their homes passes along the security fence: A wall, an electronic fence and an intrusion-tracking dirt road. It doesn’t take a military expert to understand what that means. It doesn’t take a result interpreter to look at an aerial shot and conclude what the Americans understand.
The same way, we can interpret the countless construction announcements in Judea and Samaria in recent years and their current results: Twenty-eight homes in Beit El. To paraphrase Coalition Chairman David Bitan’s comments: Israel isn’t doing anything because it doesn’t want anything. That’s the message that emerges. That’s the foundation for the demands arriving from overseas.
In my opinion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud could have reflected the political restrictions and the Israeli pragmatism. The problem is that its statements are so different from its actions that what should be done in Judea and Samaria has already disappeared in the mist of spins. Israel can decide that it will only build in the settlement blocs, which it is actually doing in a very limited manner. It can decide to build in the entire area, as it declares but doesn’t do. It can decide to stop for now and decide what it wants. Israel can, but it hasn’t decided.
Every such decision is meaningful and serves as a basis for a debate—except there is no decision, only press releases. Israelis are being led down the garden path with declarations about a construction that isn’t happening, and the international community is being deceived with a construction freeze when a few homes are being built.
If I were one of the Bayit Yehudi or Likud ministers, the warriors of Twitter, I would request a discussion on interests and restrictions. It’s a difficult debate which complicated things for everyone politically, but without this debate we’ll keep living under the cloud of spins.
Israel has a clear interest in building and strengthening its civil holding of the Jordan Valley; in practice, however, nothing is being done there. We have a clear interest in strengthening neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, in including the Mount of Olives in the western part of the city and in creating housing solutions for young and secular people. It is in our best interest to debate. Instead of this debate and instead of exhausting the interests, we are getting 28 homes in Beit El and another 382 in the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, where construction should not even be questioned.
The familiar thesis is that we should just go with the flow, keep going for 50 more years. Build a little every year, promise, play for time and wait till the danger is over. First Obama, now Trump, and then who knows. The only thing that can be built that way is houses of cards.
Statistically, every decade or so Israel evacuates land, forgets about it the next minute, and everyone calls the situation “status quo.” As time goes by, the borders built inside Judea and Samaria don’t reinforce the words coming out of the government, but only the words that came out of the Bar-Ilan speech, and the estrangement from Jerusalem conveys a message to the international community that it can be divided.
This fiasco is shared by ministers from the Right and from the greater Land of Israel lobby. Spinologists and ideologists who would rather say nothing. They are all responsible for this spin.