IDF forces, under orders from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, together with police, went into the community of Kochav HaShachar yesterday and destroyed four buildings in the start-up neighborhood of Meoz Esther. They then moved south, and destroyed another house in Ma’aleh Shlomo.
Kochav HaShachar (“morning star”) is part of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council in Samaria, at the edge of a mountain range overlooking the Jordan Valley. The outposts that were destroyed are surrounded on the east and west by barren hills, and on the north by Bedouin squatter encampments; some 18 miles to the south is Jerusalem.
Government authorities have stated that the outposts were “illegal.” But it must be understood how political this judgment is. There is a broad impression that some communities are legal and some illegal — white and black. But it’s a matter of permits. Some communities have all permits, which renders them obviously “legal,” but it’s almost always the case that even those that are termed “illegal” have some. A permit to build a road, or to bring in water pipes or electricity. Which means some ministries in the government signed on, somehow. The government can work to make sure the community secures its final permits, or can point its finger and say: Ah ha! You have no right to be here. That is a politically motivated decision.
It must be emphasized that these fledgling communities that we’re talking about — the charges of Peace Now not withstanding — are not built on privately owned Palestinian land. There have been no communities erected on private Palestinian land for over 30 years.
It must also be emphasized that — again, left wing claims aside — there is nothing “illegal” about Jews building in Judea and Samaria. This land is unassigned Mandate land, and our claim to it is strong. The Mandate specifically endorsed settlement by Jews across the land.
This is NOT Palestinian land, regardless of what the PR of the Palestinians maintains. Yet much of the world, and our own left wing, has bought this narrative now. Nothing in the Oslo Agreements forbade additional Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. And it is the Oslo Agreements, and only those agreements, that the government of Israel is bound to by virtue of having signed.
Should we — however foolishly — decide to cede this land or part thereof to the Palestinians in a final agreement, then and only then would what was ceded become Palestinian land. Not now. And as you may have noticed, the Palestinians have shunned every opportunity for a deal they don’t really want. They wish only to diminish us and harrass us, and delegitimize us.
And our defense minister is serving as their tool in this act.
The Binyamin Residents Committee put out a statement in response to the destruction: “This is apparently the gift that Barak wishes to give on the eve of his entry into the [new] government…This is his usual modus operandi: Every time the left attacks him, he gives them a consolation prize in the form of evicting Jews.”
This may be so: Barak has been roundly criticized on the left for joining a right-wing government. Is this his way of showing how “tough” he is against settlers, to mollify that left wing?
To know how much this really stinks, it’s important to know what was destroyed:
One of the four structures leveled in Meoz Esther was a Torah study hall/synagogue dedicated in memory of Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav HaShachar, murdered in the Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav massacre just over a year ago.
How does a Jewish army destroy a synagogue? A synagogue, yet, dedicated to the memory of a young man who was sitting and studying Jewish texts when he was gunned down.
Another of the buildings destroyed in Meoz Esther was the home of the daughter of Esther (Ettie) G’alyah, and her family. Esther G’alyah had been a resident of Kochav HaShachar and was murdered by terrorists in 2002; the outpost was named in her memory.
Arutz Sheva quotes an observer to the scene, who said: “There was a time when building a new Jewish locale in the Land of Israel was widely considered the proper Zionist response to terrorism, but at least in this case, the opposite appears to be true…”
In the course of 16 months, Meoz Esther has been put up and taken down four times. People in Kochav HaShachar are ready to start again. Where Zionist dedication persists, it has been my observation that sometimes the people win.
Strength to them.
There are articles suggesting that this is a sign of things to come. Maybe. But I don’t feel we know this yet. Yes, Barak — most regrettably — will still be defense minister in the new government. But Netanyahu and not Olmert will be prime minister, and the majority of the coalition will be to the right.
What happens with this new government still depends, at least in part, on how that majority asserts itself.
It also depends on whether Netanyahu has sold out to the left in order to secure Barak in his government.