We’ve moved past the immediate trauma of the fires – which were at least 50% arson – and it would have been lovely to have had a respite, a time of ease, however short, in the nation. But that is not the case, although I believe we are headed towards better times. Sometimes the most positive changes come with struggle.
First, a good news item:
The Columbia University chapter of Students Supporting Israel is sponsoring an “Indigenous People Unite” event on campus on December 6, to combat the Palestinian Arab falsehood that the land was theirs and Jews took it from them. They want to make it clear that the Jews are the indigenous people of the land.
“According to [SSI president Rudy] Rochman, anti-Israel Columbia faculty and student groups — like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) — ‘target the average student on campus by playing up and riding on the shoulders of other minority struggles,” while maintaining that the Jewish-Israel tie lies outside of that group…’
“By including an ‘Israelite’ on the program, alongside Assyrian, Yazidi, Native Canadian and Tibetan speakers, Rochman said his group aims to change that perception…‘people today are not inspired by Israel’s story, because we don’t speak about it enough.’
“Rochman said he hopes the program will show that ‘you can support Palestinian human rights while also supporting the story of Israel — the story of a people who have a right to exist like any native people.’ He wants to encourage his peers to ‘feel empowered by Israel…’” (emphasis added)
Right on! This is so very welcome.
Please note that he talks about supporting Palestinian [Arab] human rights, not national rights. There’s a big difference, and that difference is often obscured.
Vastly important, as well, to help Jews on American campuses understand that they are standing for justice when they stand for Jewish rights in the land.
And now I have a request of my readers. From time to time I speak of the Legal Grounds Campaign, which I co-chair with Jeff Daube, head of the Israel office of ZOA. I ask all of you to please go to our website – http://israelrights.com – and join the Campaign. A membership form pops up when you enter the site. There is no membership fee.
We need a large roster of names of those who support our efforts in order to have major impact as we move forward. Once you join you will receive Action Alerts sent out from time to time to inform our members about what is happening and advise them as to how they can help (by emailing a legislator, for example).
All names are valuable, but the names of Israelis are most important when it comes to lobbying MKs. Please, reach out to Israeli family and friends and ask them to join.
Now as to the turmoil and hope. It touches upon a host of related issues. Among them:
 The fate of the “illegal outpost” of Amona – adjacent to Ofra in the Binyamin Regional Council, Samaria- which is scheduled to be demolished per Court order on December 25. There had been several stays of the demolition order over the years, and one very partial demolition, but when the prime minister recently requested six more months, it was denied.
 The fate of the 40+ families who live in Amona.
 The principle of monetarily compensating owners of property if others have built on it in good faith, in lieu of banishing them.
 The issue of who has the right to go to the High Court for a ruling.
 The right of the Knesset to set policy regarding Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
 The limits of the High Court with regard to overturning legislation.
 The role and authority of the attorney general in determining legality of legislation.
Exceedingly complex issues. I’ve tried mightily to wrap my head around the various legalities – and purported legalities – involved, not always with success. I had communication with a top flight lawyer, knowledgeable about these matters, who confessed that he could no longer track the logic of what was happening in terms of the legal issues. He did not say it, but I took this as confirmation of my long-held certainty that the legal arguments are shot through with politics.
Ari Briggs, an advisor to Regavim, has written article – – that describes precisely how complicated the subject of land ownership in Judea and Samaria is. Please see it (emphasis added):
”the use of the term ‘private Palestinian land’ is an abuse of the facts and does huge damage to Israel’s credibility and standing…
“It should be clear that its use, in most cases, is incorrect and politically motivated. The term immediately conjures thoughts of improper and most likely illegal behavior, thus nothing more has to be said.
”However, as is normally the case in Israel, the issue is much more complicated than that.
”For starters, there are more classifications of land than just private or public…”
I have written about Amona before.
What has been happening is a heartache and an injustice. The Amona families were established with the assistance of Israeli ministries (e.g., Ministry of Housing) and they expected good faith on the part of the government. They did not sneak out and do something intended to be illegal. They have been in their homes for years.
But Arabs – instigated by Yesh Din – went to the High Court, claiming that they owned the land. The proof is dubious, to say the least. Documentation in many instances is insufficient, and where there is documentation it is based on Jordanian law. If nothing else, there is the problematic fact that the Jordanian occupation in Judea and Samaria, 1949-1967, was illegal, thus raising question as to how the Jordanians can be recognized as having had the right to deed the land.
In the end, only something like 5% of the land Amona is built on has been established with documentation as belonging to Arabs. It infuriates me that media reports constantly say, “Amona, which is illegally built on Arab land.”
And there are other issues here as well:
There is no principle in Judea and Samaria of monetarily awarding land owners, whose ownership has been legally documented, if others have built on that land in good faith. This is the principle within the Green Line. There is something perverse about chasing the Jews who built on the land out when the Arabs are never going to build there.
And we are still not done:
Yesh Din has no standing in the case. Yet here in Israel, this NGO and others are permitted to approach the court, petitioning alongside Arabs. This results in political meddling. Yesh Din (and other NGOs such as Shalom Achshav) believe all the land over the 1949 armistice line belongs to the Arabs.
You can rest assured that the Arabs claiming ownership would not have come forward without the direct involvement (more accurately, recruitment!) of Yesh Din.
What makes the situation even more outrageous is that NGOs such as Yesh Din receive funds from foreign governments – governments that are promoting Arab Palestinian “rights.” As they are essentially foreign agents, they should not be permitted to approach the court. The foreign governments should be required to utilize only diplomatic channels for pursuing their concerns.
The residents of Amona are very angry and say they are not going anywhere. They have called for others who support them to come and stand against authorities on the day of the demolition. Thus has the specter of violence been looming large.
In 2006, there was a very partial demolition of homes in Amona, during which considerable violence ensued, in good measure because of the heavy hand of law enforcement authorities.
To witness Jew against Jew is a heartbreak.
I held off writing this posting because from day to day, even hour to hour, the situation kept changing and there was precious little clarity. We are not all the way there yet, but the shape of what is coming in now visible.
The issue is a lot bigger than Amona. It is about the nature of the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
See Caroline Glick’s article – “Israel’s constitutional identity crisis” – on the great significance of the legal battle (emphasis added):
“Israel’s coalition crisis over the settlements regulation bill is not a normal power struggle between overweening politicians…
”It is also not about contenders for the helm challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political primacy.
“The settlement regulation bill proposes to extend the authority of the Military Government in Judea and Samaria to seize privately owned land. That authority is now limited to seizure for military purposes. The bill would allow the Military Government to seize land for the purpose of private construction as well.
”The political fight over the bill is not merely a fight over the community of Amona…
”The fight over the law is a fight about the character of Israel.
”Opponents of the bill argue that the law undermines the power of the Supreme Court and endangers Israel’s international standing. Proponents of the bill argue that Israel needs to ensure the primacy of the Knesset. They further argue that there is no point in bowing to the will of an international community that is constitutionally incapable of ever standing with Israel.
”In case you were wondering, proponents of the bill have it right.
”The settlement regulation bill is not a radical bill. It is a liberal reform of a legal regime that harms the civil rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Right wing, nationalist MKs and ministers have grown weary of the situation. Amona became a catalyst for their action. They are determined to make a difference in terms of how “illegal settlements” are handled that is pervasive: there should be no more Amonas.
When last I wrote, I spoke about the Regulation Law. It passed its first reading in two versions – one that had a clause that applied specifically to Amona, and one that eliminated that clause.
Netanyahu expressed cold feet about the more comprehensive version, saying that the International Court of Justice would come after us, and that it would provoke Obama to vindictively support an anti-Israel resolution in the Security Council before he left.
It was difficult not to have some sympathy for this unease – Defense Minister Lieberman also called for slow action until Trump was in the White House.
However, it also had to be considered that Netanyahu on occasion uses these concerns as a screen for what he would prefer to do in any event. In recent days, his arguments began to sound weak.
Last Thursday, Reuters reported (emphasis added):
“U.S. President Barack Obama, keen to preserve his legacy on domestic health care and the Iran nuclear deal, is not expected to make major moves on Israeli-Palestinian peace before leaving office, U.S. officials said…
“Obama’s aides are wary of [his] being seen picking a fight with Donald Trump at a time when he hopes to persuade the Republican President-elect to preserve parts of his legacy, including the Iran nuclear deal, Obamacare and the opening to Cuba.”
“While Obama has yet to present his final decision, several officials said he had given no sign that he intended to go against the consensus of his top advisers, who have mostly urged him not to take dramatic steps, a second official said.”
At the same time, Aviad Visoly, who is a political activist and a lawyer, has made the case that Netanyahu’s concerns regarding the International Court of Justice are “groundless.”
Read his thinking here:
While Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely expressed the opinion that it was “extreme” to fear an International Court of Justice action on the law, which was “right and ethical.”
She pointed out that: “the Palestinians are not a state and do not have the right to appear in the court.”
Pressure on the prime minister increased, accompanied by considerable turmoil within the Coalition. Several Knesset and government activists were at work here.
Of particular note, those who pushed forward the legislation:
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), who co-chairs the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset. There is nothing shy and retiring about Bezalel.
And his co-chair, Yoav Kisch (Likud)
And Shuli-Moalem Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi)
Credit: Jewish Agency
And most of all, Minister Naftali Bennett (Chair, Habayit Hayehudi) who said he refused to give up.
Bennett and Netanyahu held intensive meetings seeking a way forward that they could mutually agree upon. Two days ago, they reached agreement on a version of the law that would legalize Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. As I understand it, it has a retroactive clause, in that it allows legalization retroactively of communities now considered illegal. Thus, there would be no more Amonas.
It, however, excluded Clause 7, which would have protected Amona by overriding the Court. (In the other retroactive instances, there were not yet Court rulings, and the intent was to preclude them.)
Explained Arutz Sheva: “a safety net was factored into the agreement, stipulating that if the High Court strikes down the Regulation Law the “Cypriot Outline” will remain in force, which would compensate the landowners via an international tribunal.” This would preclude demolition of houses, as well. My understanding is that compensation would be at 125% of the value of the land.
As to Amona, the prime minister has asked the High Court for 30 days extension on demolition, in order to prepare new homes for the residents. He spoke about application of the Absentee Property Law and the fact that residents would be able to remain permanently on that absentee property. (Previously this was said to be a temporary solution, with residents required to move again in eight months – a ridiculous situation.)
Subsequently Netanyahu explained:
“We intend to examine the possibility of the residents being able to remain on the mountain [where they are now], and even to stay as a community….It is true that they will have to move a few dozen meters, maybe even 100-180 meters, but they will be able to remain at the same location.”
The residents of Amona still say they refuse to move.
Yesterday, the bill passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset. Three formal readings follow, the first perhaps tomorrow. The compromise agreement that was reached, as I understand it, secures a majority for this legislation – that is, it should pass all three readings. We will see.
According to my best sources, the attorney-general has said he would not oppose this version of the law (his previous objection being to over-riding the Court). Some of the Knesset parties who voted for the law did so precisely with the understanding that the attorney-general was on board.
(I confess to a certain confusion as to the role and the power of the attorney-general. He cannot stop the progress of legislation in the Knesset, but he can refuse to argue for a law in the High Court, and his disapproval has a dampening effect on its advancement.)
This, then, is a marvelous time of hope for all of us who care about the rights of Israel in Judea and Samaria. There were leading members of the Knesset who referred to this legislation as the most momentous thing that has happened to Judea and Samaria since 1967.
I enjoyed the comment of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), who thanked left-wing activists for enabling the bill to move forward.
“I want to start by giving thanks – mainly thanks to Peace Now. You know, no one in the history of the Jewish people who wanted to curse us has been able to without actually blessing [us]. Without meaning to, Peace Now and other leftist organizations – I don’t want to deny credit to anyone [who deserves it], have aided the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria.” (Emphasis added)
This is true – outrageous actions against Israel energize those who care. If we listen carefully we may hear the sound of the leaders of the left wing organizations banging their heads against the well.
It’s not over yet. We still must see what evolves with Amona. And the legislation has to pass the three readings in the Knesset. If it passes it’s a fairly sure bet that some left-wing NGO will bring it to the High Court.
What seems an absolute certainty to me is that we are not going back to where we were. The shift has begun. If one effort fails, nationalists will move forward with something else.
We know something significant must be happening because of the insane rant Kerry delivered the other day – a rant filled with anger and frustration that matters are not going his way (and of course he knows what’s best for us). I will not sully this post by belaboring this further.
Rather, let me close with the words of former MK Orit Stock, “People don’t see their own miracles” (emphasis added):
“There’s no doubt that this law and its accomplishments have made history.
“It hurts to know that Amona’s residents will merit to reap the fruits of their own labors, and will have to make do with an upgraded version of the absentee property solution. (The upgraded version, at least, is much better than the previous versions. But still, we all hoped Amona’s residents would be able to remain in their homes.)
“This is a crossroads which reminds us of the founding of the State of Israel, within its tiny 1948 borders. It was a huge historical milestone on the one hand, but it hurt that not everything we set out to do was accomplished.
“In my opinion, we must not allow the hurt (which definitely exists and deserves to be recognized) to prevent us from being happy and grateful for the historical milestone we have merited achieving.”
A most fitting song, the original “This Land Is My Land,” done by Pat Boone:
© 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.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.