by Sara Haetzni-Cohen
The long Shavuot holiday overshadowed the most important declaration of the week. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was interviewed by the New York Times last week and gave a gift to the government of Israel and the People that dwells in Zion: an American declaration of Israel's legitimacy to apply sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria. "Under certain circumstances", said the Ambassador, "I think that Israel has the right to hold part of the West Bank, but not all of it."
The PA is methodically swallowing up more and more of Area C.
What, exactly, does the U.S. Ambassador mean? There is no way to know, but this is a significant milestone. For years, our great friend beyond the sea has been pushing plans that included almost complete Israeli withdrawal while freezing construction, even in Jerusalem. And now, the official representative of the President of the great superpower comes and opens a window to another mode of thinking and a different policy, changing the equation with international approval. After recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, transferring the embassy, and recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, here is another declaration. We clearly must progress from declarations to deeds, but for now we have a transitional government, so meanwhile it is good to take a glance at the territory over which (or within which) sovereignty is to be applied.
The cautious optimism that steals into our hearts with the Ambassador's declaration comes up against a grim reality. How grim? Very grim. Recently the Regavim organization has been carrying out some serious work and the preliminary results (which are not yet available for publication) attest to a catastrophe on the ground.
And here is the news: They are devouring our Land. Despite the Ambassador's pleasant words, the Land is being devoured before our closed and loving eyes. Declarations are important but they are reversible. National Zionism must join with practical Zionism. It works only when they are together, and practical Zionism at the moment is in a deep hole. Someone has taken practical "Zionism" and translated it into Arabic – the one that has been quarreling with us over the Land for more than a hundred years. We think that he is losing but he is a good student; he has learned from us the quiet method of "one more acre and one more goat" and executes it at a frightening pace.
2011: Pulling the rug from under our feet:
I hope that someone who reads these lines will treat this problem with sacred awe and with the great understanding of the mission. Someone from the executive branches must wake up, must want to wake up; one of the policy makers, one of the elected representatives. Someone.
The Arabs have been lusting for this area - Area C - for a long time. And since 2009 they have also been working to establish facts on the ground with a sophisticated and smart strategy. This strategy was defined as the Fayyad Plan (named for Salam Fayyad, former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority) and its official name: "Palestine – ending the occupation, establishing the state". Exactly like Herzl's The Jewish State in one way, but so very different. And that's how it is. The objective of the plan is to establish a state de facto, assuming that the negotiations will break down and lead nowhere.
And in Area C, this very strategic territory, facts are being determined on the ground. Schools are built, since they are more difficult to evacuate, water lines are put down, temporary structures are built that quickly become permanent, seedlings are planted, terraces are being built. In broad daylight and no one cares. Surely not the Civil Administration.
2012: A rainy confrontation in Netzer:
The PA folks have done their mapping, have chosen strategic areas such as E1, the Judean Desert, the road to the Dead Sea (note the issue of Khan al Ahmar, which is still standing), Har Hevron, Gush Etzion and many more. In this area everyone is stirring things up. Especially the European countries – the Norwegians, the Dutch, the Danes, the European Union, the UN, everyone. As if they don't have enough problems of their own, they stir up matters here at full speed. The projects there deal with civil matters, agriculture, transportation, quality of life, and what not – the main thing is to swallow up as much territory as possible, while we are dealing with our other issues. The Palestinians are galloping toward a state, and the Ambassador's declarations are left behind, eating the dust.
And the irony? They don't even hide it. They produce marvelously accurate plans (in English) that are available on the PA internet sites, with clear statements, no excuses or pretenses. We are going to establish a state here, whether they like it or not.
And in Israel? There is no governmental body that knows (or wants) to cope with the matter. Actually, there was one. A young man by the name of Kobi Eliraz, an advisor to the Defense Minister on issues dealing with the settlements, who was relieved of his duties ignominiously and without any explanation a few days ago. Kobi held the position during the periods of Ya'alon and Liberman, and it was actually Netanyahu who decided, during the transitional government, to fire this most ethical and professional man, who lived the reality 24/6 and knocked on all of the doors in order to warn people and expose the reality, put out all the fires, and come up with intelligent and organized plans.
Kobi and Regavim. One person who has already been dismissed, and a civil social organization without resources (but full of motivation and Zionism), and no one else. It is unbelievable. Where is the Civil Administration? Where is the Defense Ministry? Where is the Agriculture Ministry? Nada. In the best case, these bodies have no idea what is happening on the ground and in the worst case – they are too fastidious with Jews and too lenient with the Arabs. A total failure.
2012: Raanana “settlers” in Netzer prevent illegal Arab take over:
So what can be done?
After we wake up and understand the depth of the problem, and this had better happen soon, we will have to produce, approve, and execute an emergency governmental plan for Area C. To see what is possible to rescue.
In parallel, there is a new tool that has even passed the greatest of tests, the test of the Supreme Court. It is a special order that was used during the time of he-who-shall-not-be-named, Avigdor Liberman, when he was Defense Minister, and he deserves some credit for this. The New Building Order allows for the bureaucratic process to be shortened and to destroy illegal structures more easily, before temporary structures become permanent. This order has been in place for 40 days and it is the Civil Administration that is supposed to use it. Want to guess how many times it has been used since then? For those who guess correctly we will raffle off one of the European Union's mobile buildings. They will have to "prepare for enacting it" in the Civil Administration – they have time. This is what happens when the bureaucracy and the public sector's lack of efficiency join with negative motivation and lack of will to act.
During the unsuccessful coalition negotiations the United Right Party issued an ultimatum: to fight the Fayyad Plan. The engine is Orit Struk, a member of the National Union, who is very familiar with the reality in the field, who led the demand for the government to pass a decision entitled "Deciding for Judea and Samaria". This would entail enforcement against the illegal Arab takeover of territory, advance a policy of registering state lands and carry out activities for the protection of state lands, and all of this while acting against those who are stirring things up: the international organizations.
Netanyahu did not accept it. He stalled and stammered and stuttered. These were days of spin and chaos, bombastic declarations and headlines. But when the noise settled down, it was precisely this critical ideological demand (that was not based on keeping one's "chair") that he did not accede to. How it finally ended, we all know.
2013: Arabs and anarchists try to take over land and to burst into the community of Elazar:
About two years ago, an article by Ariel Kahana appeared in Makor Rishon describing a tough conversation between world leaders and Netanyahu about Peres' funeral in 2014. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry were all on Air Force 1, the presidential jet. They phoned and asked to deliver a message to Netanyahu: "Tell your boss that if he also wants to have a funeral like Peres', he should start moving, going forward", said one of the Americans to Yoav Horowitz, Chief of Staff. "Tell him", answered Netanyahu, "that I will do without the honor, because I don't have any intention to take part in my country's funeral."
Can it be that this same Netanyahu that stood up so heroically to the Obama administration, who comes from the concept of "A Place in the Sun" and the "Iron Wall", who managed to create strategic relations with the Trump administration – can it be that ironically he is the one who will allow a Palestinian state to sneak in?
This is a wake-up call, because they are devouring our Land.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav for the Sovereignty Movement. The article was originally published in Makor Rishon.
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