It’s official. Last night the Knesset voted – 93 in favor, no votes against and no abstentions – to disband itself. We are in a campaign period. A huge amount of jockeying is now taking place with regard to possible mergers of parties, timing of the Likud primary (which Netanyahu hopes to push up to forestall challenges), and more.
But today I want to back away from the political circus and look at some of the issues that are paramount. Sometimes it feels as if everything not connected to Israeli politics fades into the background during an election period. But of course that is not the case: Things happen. Threats loom. Opportunities arise.
A very good place to start is with the issue of Area C. This area, as you will recall, was accorded full Israel administrative control – civil and security – under the Oslo Accords, with Area A under full PA control and Area B under PA civilian control and Israeli security control.
All Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are in Area C, and Oslo did not restrict development by Israel in that area. There are about 400,000 Jews in this area, and about 90,000 Arabs.
What is happening under our very noses is that illegal Arab construction is encroaching on this area. In 2014, according to testimony given recently to the Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, 16 times as many homes were erected illegally in the area by Arabs than by Jews, based per capita.
As Regavim explains it:
“…building initiatives specifically in Area C…[are done] with the intent of chipping away at this area bit by bit, and thus creating a strip of territory between the area of Hebron, Samaria, and Jericho. This strip would endanger the security of the State of Israel and its ability to defend itself within defensible borders.”
The Palestinian Authority has been advancing this illegal building “unilaterally since 2009, as part of its strategic plan to create a Palestinian state de facto, while avoiding the need for negotiations with Israel.” (Emphasis added)
This is a matter of considerable concern. In part, we have responsibility for what is going on, for the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, which is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense, has not acted forcefully in responding to this threat.
But there is another major factor involved: The European Union has been blatantly underwriting this illegal building.
Now Regavim has released a position paper that is “the product of meticulous research, documentation and mapping of hundreds of residential structures which the European Union has built in a series of outposts in the Adumim area—the eastern corridor leading to Jerusalem from the Jordan Valley…it demonstrates clearly the purposeful change in the conduct of the European Union, as appears in their official documents, and analyses the significance of these illegal initiatives in the area.
“Between the lines, the hypocrisy of the European Union is exposed, blaming Israel for taking unilateral steps, whilst simultaneously being directly, deeply and heavily involved in illegal and unilateral activity to the benefit of the Palestinian Authority.” (Emphasis added)
For some time now, Minister Naftali Bennett (chair, Habayit Hayehudi) has been promoting a plan for the annexation of Area C of Judea and Samaria. Under this plan, the Arabs in area C would be offered full citizenship. All those beyond Area C would be given autonomy – an opportunity to control their own lives with regard to civil matters, which means running their own schools, electing their own mayors in their cities, etc. They would not have sovereignty – would not be given a full state.
Just days ago, the Saban Forum was held in Washington DC. Run by the Saban Center for Near East Policy of the Brookings Institute. Bennett traveled to participate in the Forum in order to promote his Area C plan.
Before I speak further about what he said at the Forum, I want to take a short detour: The Brookings Institute is one of a handful of very influential Washington DC non-governmental think tanks that has taken foreign money without reporting it. Taking the money is not illegal, but failing to report it very well may be.
It has been revealed that Qatar gave Brookings $14 million, at a time when Martin Indyk was vice president and director of foreign policy for Brookings. He was, during that time, also serving as US envoy to Israel, presumably able to take a fair or neutral stance in dealings Israel has with Palestinian Arabs. But, as Jan Sokolovsky, author of the article cited here, wrote:
“To assume that the researchers and the think tanks are not influenced by the agenda of their donors belies common sense.”
This is important information to have in any event – lest inquiring individuals who are not privy to these facts take information coming from Brookings as “unbiased” research.
But here it is particularly relevant. For Bennett spoke for 80 minutes at the Saban Forum, during which time it was Indyk who interviewed him extensively and then moderated a question and answer segment. Professing great devotion to Israel, he is thoroughly and totally untrustworthy. This is a man who would throw us under the bus gladly.
Bennett’s full statement can be found here:
It is instructive, spirited and encouraging. Several times, he comes back at Indyk with strength. I recommend taking the time to see it.
At the very least, see this four minute segment that has some marvelous retorts to Indyk.
There have not been any ghastly terror events in the last several days, thank Heaven. But this, of course, does not mean that terror is a thing of the past. Knifings and other sorts of attacks that have not resulted in fatalities have taken a back seat to other news. Yet I feel it is important to mention here what continues to go on.
Less than a week ago, there two Israelis were stabbed in a supermarket in Mishor Adumim, just outside of Jerusalem. The attacker was shot dead.
Today, two terrorists – wanted by security forces because of reported intention to carry out attacks – were apprehended outside of Tekoa. One of those apprehended, Muhammed Abu Eisha, is the nephew of one of the terrorists believed to have kidnapped and then killed the three students this summer. We see again that terror often is a family affair.
Most hair-raising, however, was the report less than two weeks ago of an extensive Hamas terror plot that involved several locations. The largest intended site was Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem’s main stadium.
Credit: Josh Kalman
Over thirty terrorists were arrested; the network, which operated in Judea and Samaria, was directed by Hamas leadership that set up a command center in Turkey.
Not only is constant vigilance necessary. The fact of such a plot teaches us once again that our security personnel absolutely must have the freedom to operate across Judea and Samaria.
Briefly here, I turn from the horrors of Hamas to the horrors of Fatah, as embodied by Mahmoud Abbas.
Two days ago he made the declaration once again that he cannot recognize Israel as a Jewish state because it would undermine the “national interests” of Arabs who are Israeli citizens, and would prevent “Palestinian refugees” from returning to their homes. “We cannot close the door to those who wish to return.”
Oh yes we can. He’s talking about six million “refugees,” and his logic is, in and of itself, a sufficient argument for passing the Jewish law legislation.
I mention here, as well, that Israeli Arabs don’t have “national” rights – only individual human and civil rights. What Abbas said was:
“We cannot recognize a Jewish state. We will stand against this enterprise, not out of obstinacy, but because it contradicts our interests. The first to suffer from this law would be the 1.5 million Arabs who would no longer belong to Israel, due to their religion.”
Absolute and unmitigated nonsense. The status of Arabs would not be affected by this legislation.
Abbas prefers to represent himself as a “refugee” now. But he’s on record as saying that his family left S’fat voluntarily:
He is making a great deal of his intentions to secure statehood unilaterally, via the Security Council, or to take one sort of drastic action or another if that fails.
We close with a good news item:
The design for the National Library of Israel – done by the firm Herzog and de Meuron – has been revealed:
It will be built within the complex that houses the Israel Museum; construction is scheduled to begin in 2016. Four of the buildings six stories will be underground. It will encompass, in addition to the library itself, research laboratories and offices, educational facilities, a visitor center, a multipurpose hall and a climate-controlled archive.