I begin with a housekeeping matter:
In my last posting, I included a URL for a marvelous YouTube video that consisted of a message from the chief rabbi of South Africa, and Ya’akov Swekey singing “Y’hi She’amda.” David Orbach, Israeli journalist and musician, has contacted me to say that Yonaton Razel wrote the music to that song and should have been acknowledged in the video credits. While I have learned that Swekey and Razel are good friends, it is my pleasure to acknowledge Razel’s music composition here.
Little Zakkai is undergoing surgery on his spine today. Surgery is scheduled for 10:15 eastern daylight time (5 pm here in Israel) and expected to last 4-5 hours. There will not be word on his condition in sufficient time to share it today. You can track updates at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/zakkai. The thoracic piece of the tumor, which is also growing, will be tackled in separate surgery possibly within a matter of days. Keep praying: Rephael Zakkai Avraham ben Yakira Avigael.
This is what his parents wrote this morning:
“With much tears and fears, we just left our precious, happy boy in the caring and capable hands of a great team in the OR. And headed to the waiting room where we expect to spend the bulk of the day.
“Zakkai was amazingly radiant this morning, playing and charming the staff here. He gave us both kisses before the anesthesia took over and we pray he will continue to feel God’s embrace and our and everyone’s love and support through the day.”
Now as to why (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak Must Go!:
Quite frankly, I sit at my computer in a state of fury over what happened just a short while ago. I had a posting already in progress, and you will see all that I had already written below. But this takes precedence.
As is often the case in situations awash in politics, the facts are difficult to pin down with precision. But the story runs thus:
Near the Machpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron, in an Arab neighborhood — but in the part of Hevron controlled by Israel and not the PA — stands a house that is being called Beit HaMachpela.
Credit: Gil Yohanan/YNet
It was purchased by a group of Israelis (I believe some 30-50 in number) from its Palestinian Arab owners. Every indication I have is that the purchase was legal and papers are in order.
Last week the new Jewish owners moved into the house. But because Hevron is governed by military law and not Israeli civil law, permission was required from the Ministry of Defense — i.e., Barak — for them to begin inhabiting the premises. The new owners say they were afraid of damage to the house by Arabs, or the movement into the house by Arab squatters (both reasonable concerns), and so they filed papers with the Defense Ministry at the same time that they moved in — that is, while they had not yet received permission they anticipated that they would receive it shortly.
Yet this is not the way Barak and the Civil Administration (which works under the IDF) saw matters. The house was declared a closed military zone and an eviction order was issued — the residents were originally supposed to leave by 3 PM yesterday.
And here is where law and politics become conflated. Ostensibly, the eviction papers were issued because the Civil Administration had not had an opportunity to examine the purchase documents to determine their legitimacy, and thus could not yet issue a permit for the owners to move into the house.
But this is the statement in the eviction notice:
“…in Hevron a fragile status quo is maintained between the Israeli and Palestinian population. Upholding this status quo prevents confrontations that may lead to loss of life.”
Hold it a minute, here!
This suggests that it’s not about examining purchase documents at all. This clearly suggests that Barak has made a political decision regarding the right of Jews to live in an Arab neighborhood of Israeli-controlled Hevron.
The business about “confrontations that may lead to loss of life” is a politically motivated gross exageration. Were the Israeli authorities to make it clear that Jews have a right to live in that house, and to provide whatever protection might be necessary (which I suspect would be quite minimal), the message would be delivered, and that would likely be the end of it.
I abhor situations in which Jews are deprived of their rights by Israeli authorities because of fear of Arab violence. That is the situation that pertains on the Temple Mount, to provide a key example. The Israeli courts have said Jews have a right to pray on the Mount. But Israeli security personnel/police absolutely forbid Jewish prayers on the Mount because the Arabs won’t like it and it might cause a disturbance (riot).
It is shameful and disgusting. And this is what the reason presented in that eviction notice smells like: It stinks.
For the record, according to YNet, residents of the house say that some officials of the Civil Administration “have admitted that documents presented to the Administration prove the house had been purchased legally.” And Minister of Security Affairs Moshe Ya’alon is on record as saying he does not understand “why Barak claims it would take weeks to check whether the documents presented by the settlers are legal when it can be done in a few days.”
In any event, Prime Minister Netanyahu, feeling the heat from his right flank, intervened yesterday, and asked Barak to give the residents of the house sufficient time to explore all legal avenues and prove their ownership of the building. Again, here, the issues are fuzzy — because if Barak is concerned about “security” and not ownership then there would be little that would avail the residents. But it was a gesture in the right direction.
The deadline of 3 PM yesterday came and went without incident. And then last night Netanyahu, Barak, Ya’alon and (Minister without portfolio) Benny Begin met; it was decided — according to a number of reports I accessed — to give the residents until April 26 to make the case that they were in the house legally. A delay, a time during which it was hoped that matters might be worked out. But the same issues — ownership plus the Civil Administration permit — pertained, even with the extended deadline.
I have no additional information on this, but according to the JPost, the decision made at this meeting was “based on the opinion of senior judicial officials.”
This afternoon tables were turned when a substantial contingent of security forces came to Beit Machpela and evicted the residents, who went peacefully. As Israel Hayom put it, Barak “pulls the rug out from under everyone’s feet.” The evacuation was done on his orders. Said he (don’t gag):
“I will continue to safeguard democracy and the rule of law, as well as the government’s authority over its citizens.” He said that the legal examination of the residents’ claims of legal purchase would continue, but that he would “not allow illegal acts that present the government with facts on the ground.”
Safeguard democracy? But he acted unilaterally in the face of an almost universal understanding that there had been an agreement among the ministers to give the residents more time.
Only in Israel Hayom am I seeing an indication that the meeting of the ministers was stalemated and that they were to meet again. But in a sense it doesn’t matter. Because he took matters into his own hands, rather than taking the time to meet again with the others. Not exactly a democratic move.
A primary question is whether Netanyahu knew this was going to happen, but there is no way to determine the answer now.
If Barak subverted the express wishes of the prime minister, we’re dealing with one sort of problem, and if Netanyahu was playing the game both ways we have another.
What I am seeing is that the prime minister is advancing an effort right now to legalize other communities: attempting to avoid a demolition of the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, and providing for permanent status of Bruchin, Sansana and Rechalim. This may be a clue to his intentions in Hevron, but might also be an attempt to mollify the right, playing both ends at the same time.
There is considerable rage within the government with regard to what Barak has done.
Ya’alon has called for authority for housing in Judea and Samaria to be removed from Barak’s jurisdiction and be turned over to a ministerial panel. Earlier Army Radio had cited him as having said, “Barak doesn’t solve problems, he starts fires…The defense minister is supposed to represent the government. But Barak represents the views of only one faction.”
Foreign Minister Lieberman, who was livid, said, “From a coalition perspective, this is a grave mistake, and I’m choosing my words carefully.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said, “This kind of behavior is crossing every line. Anything would have been preferable to the kind of surprise we are experiencing right now. I call on the government to put an end to this once and for all.”
Various other ministers and MKs were furious as well.
And so now I call upon you, my readers, if you find this behavior of Barak infuriating and reprehensible, to let Prime Minister Netanyahu know how you feel.
Tell him that Defense Minister Barak has stepped over the line with his actions in Hevron and must go. Tell Netanyahu that he must stand strong for Israel, and he will be failing the country if he allows a left-wing Barak to unilaterally have his way. Barak must be fired!
Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)
There is one additional matter I feel the need to touch upon here, which disturbs me more than a little:
There’s a front page report in the JPost today that “senior defense officials” are saying that a military confrontation with Iran may not come until 2013.
Why? Because of “growing signs that the West’s economic crackdown on Iran is bearing fruit.”
Excuse me? That Iran is hurting is without question. But there is has been no evidence whatsoever that the regime has reduced by one iota its determination to go nuclear. They seem defiantly determined to “bite the bullet” and keep going.
As a matter of fact, I have a report from Israelnationalnews from yesterday in which Netanyahu says that Iran sanctions are not working:
“The sanctions are painful, hard… but will this bring about a halt or a retreat in the Iranian nuclear program? Until now, it has not happened…The regime strengthened its grip in the recent elections, despite the sanctions…
“It has strengthened its political grip, it is struggling financially and it still hasn’t turned back by even one millimeter from its nuclear program.
“…We are leading an unprecedented international campaign against Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. I do not know of an easy way to solve the Iranian problem.
“We will attack those who threaten to attack us.”
So what’s going on here? Is this Barak (“senior defense officials”) vs. Netanyahu? Is this appeasement of the US, with a delay until after the election? A sign that bunker busters that give us greater capablity will be acquired?
I don’t know how to reconcile these two reports or how to answer my own rhetorical questions. But I do know the situation must be watched.
At this point it is not clear if I will be able to post again before Pesach, and so I end today with some good news, as is appropriate before the holiday:
In 2009, the PA filed with the International Criminal Court in the Hague against Israel because of alleged war crimes in “Operation Cast Lead,” the war against Hamas in Gaza.
In filing with the Court, the PA had attempted to secure de facto recognition as a state — by having the Hague assume jurisdiction over the “territory of Palestine.” The PA invoked Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute (which established the Court); this enables “a state which is not a party to this Statute” to request that the ICC exercise its jurisdiction on an ad hoc basis with respect to an alleged crime in that state’s territory, or involving its nationals.
Now the Prosecutor for the Court has told the PA they have no legal status for filing: Only states can file, and the recognition of “Palestine” by a number of nations and UN organizations notwithstanding, the PA is not a state.
Israel had not been at all certain that the Court, which is highly politicized and has moved in the past against Israel, would not act on behalf of the PA in this instance.
The inclination of the PA to take steps such as this is one of the reasons why Israel opposes its unilateral moves to be recognized as a state. Were the UN to so recognize “Palestine” (something that should not happen according to its own rules) and accord it full UN membership, rather than its current observer status, the Court’s decision would have been different.
And Abbas is not finished with his tricks (more at a future date).
The Foreign Ministry is trying a new approach. It must be welcomed, for it delivers a message that is long over-due and allows Israel to take an offensive diplomatic stance: With the blessings of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry has decided to prominently raise the issue of Jewish refugees.
A Ministry release to journalists yesterday read:
“A true solution to the issues of refugees will only be possible when the Arab League will take historic responsibility for its role in creating the Jewish and Palestinian refugee problem.”
According to the Ministry, some 850,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries following the founding of the State of Israel, losing assets of about $700 million (some $6 billion in today’s prices). Close to half of Israel’s population is today is comprised of these refugees and their descendants.
It is being made very explicit by the Ministry that the notion of “right of return” to Israel of so-called Palestinian refugees and their descendents is unacceptable: “The Palestinian refugees will be rehabilitated in their place of residence,” the press release stated, insisting on “immediate discontinuation” of demands that refugees be resettled within Israel.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who is spearheading this initiative, said yesterday:
“Only truth can bring justice. Everybody knows today, because of the Arab narrative that has been prevalent in the last few decades, about the Arab refugees. But the other half of this equation was forgotten: Jewish refugees from Arab countries that were forced to leave their homes, their possessions, their heritage, and flee.
“We have to correct a historic injustice. But, in a very pragmatic way, we believe that settling the refugee problems on both sides — the Arab and the Jewish side — is the only way to really bring about a durable, comprehensive and lasting peace. Peace that will be built on truth and justice for all.”
From now on, said Ayalon, Israel will incorporate the issue of Jewish refugees into all negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs. Additionally, he indicated that an international fund will be created to compensate the countries that have already been working on absorbing and rehabilitating Arab refugees.
You might enjoy this light-hearted Passover Rhapsody from Aish:
And to my Christian friends about to celebrate Easter, I send good wishes as well.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.