Posts Tagged settlements

Five reasons why everything you have heard about the Israeli election results is wrong

This is getting to me.

1. There is an even left-right split

This seems to be a the conventional wisdom, even amongst Israeli publications that should, and do, know better.

Haaretz: “right-wing to take 61 seats, center-left 59.”

Jerusalem Post: “Final election count: Right bloc 61, Center-Left 59 seats.”

Or in graphic form (which is slightly outdated – before the last seat had been properly allocated):

charty3_2

This is a lie, don’t believe it. The real picture looks like this (although I don’t fully agree even with this one):

chartyparty

Courtesy of Shmuel Rosner.

You see, Israel does not simply have ‘left’ and ‘right’ parties like we are used to in two-party system countries like Australia, the US, the UK etc. Israel has a lot of different factions, none of which the media seem to be aware of. I can only pin this down to lazy journalism and/or media groupthink. Below are a few of the incorrect assumptions that are being made in this calculation.

2. The Arab bloc

For starters, it is useless including the Arab parties in the ‘left’. This is because ‘Arab parties’ is not really what they are, a more accurate description would be the ‘anti-Zionist parties’. A lot of the Zionist parties have Arabs on their tickets, and Chadash – the communist party that is normally counted in the ‘Arab bloc’ – has Jewish candidates. Meanwhile, a lot of the Arab voters in Israel actually vote for Zionist parties because, believe it or not, many of them care about domestic economic and social issues, and aren’t just driven to destroy Israel like Arabs are ‘supposed’ to be.

The point here is that at least Balad and Ta’al, and probably Chadash too – which hold 3, 4, and 4 seats respectively – would never join a governing coalition with anyone from the Zionist left. That means that the ‘left bloc’ could win 71 seats and still not be able to form government, as 11 of those seats would refuse to join the coalition.

3. The right-religious bloc

Supposedly, 61 seats went to the right. The breakdown of these were: Likud-Yisrael Beitenu, 31; Habayit Hayehudi, 12; Shas, 11; Yehudat Hatorah, 7.

Once again, this is by no means a cohesive bloc. It is true that, while there is a very significant ideological difference between the secular-nationalist LYB and the national-religious HH, they are both on the right of politics. The other two, however, are not really. Shas and Yehudat Hatorah represent the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community, the difference between them being that Shas is Sephardi (from Middle Eastern countries) and YH are Ashkenazi (from Eastern Europe).

Both are more accurately described as ‘interest groups’ than ‘right-wing parties’. They are happy to join any coalition so long as their demands are met – which are primarily that they continue be able to study torah instead of having paid work, be exempt from national service, have generous government benefits for having a lot of children, and generally have their lifestyles subsidised by the Israeli taxpayers. In essence, the left could deal with them if they were willing to accept these conditions, which has often been the case in past governments. It is a little dishonest, therefore, to include them in the ‘right’.

4. The centrist bloc

At the moment, there are four parties that are referred to as ‘centrist’: Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid’s party), 19; Avodah (Labour), 15; Hatnuah (Tzippi Livni’s party), 7; and Kadima, 3. The one party I have yet to mention is Meretz, which is unambiguously on the Zionist far-left and won 6 seats.

Here’s the rub: I do not remember any other point in history where Avodah was referred to as a ‘centrist’ party. In fact, looking at their platform coming into these elections, they would be giving Trotsky a run for his money. Shelley Yachimovich’s plan to save Israel seems to be along the lines of ‘put everything under government control, tax successful businesses, and increase the size of every public service department’. I am fairly sure that would make her ‘left wing’.

Meanwhile, Hatnuah is essentially comprised of former Avodah leaders who left Avodah because they weren’t being chosen as leaders anymore. I think that qualifies as ‘left’ too.

5. Israel’s new ‘centre-left’ sensation

Now that is in contrast to Yesh Atid. As explained by Michal Koplow, Yair Lapid was not running on a leftist platform at all. In fact, his platform was more in line with the traditional Likudniks than anything else – that would be the Likudniks like Dan Meridor and Ruben Rivlin, who were purged in the primaries due to heavy branch-stacking by the settlement movement. Lapid is actually much closer ideologically to Netanyahu than most of the current MKs from Netanyahu’s own party. He has also been running this entire time very openly intending to join a Likud-led coalition once elected. Yesh Atid are a centre-right party.

So what really happened?

I think Yossi Klein-Halevi said this one best:

Yair’s ideological challenge will be to clarify the political center and give coherence to the instincts of a majority of Israelis. That centrist majority seeks a politics that isn’t afraid to acknowledge the complexity of Israel’s dilemmas. These voters agree with the left about the dangers of occupation and with the right about the dangers of a delusional peace. Centrists want a two-state solution and are prepared to make almost any territorial compromise for peace. But they also believe that no concessions, at least for now, will win Israel legitimacy and real peace. Centrists want to be doves but are forced by reality to be hawks.

I voted for Yair because, as a centrist Israeli, I have no other political home.

Netanyahu, who accepted a two-state solution in principle and then imposed a 10-month settlement freeze, tried to turn the Likud into a center-right party, more pragmatic than ideological and able to attract voters like me. But the ideological right within the Likud revolted. Today’s Likud appears more hospitable to the far rightist Moshe Feiglin than to centrists like Dan Meridor, denied a safe seat in the Likud primaries.

The Israeli media is speaking relentlessly of an even divide between the left-wing and right-wing blocs. That’s nonsense. Yesh Atid isn’t a left-wing party; half of its voters define themselves as right of center. Instead, the rise of Yesh Atid affirms the vigor of the center. Despite the historic failure of every centrist party—Kadima, the last attempt, virtually disintegrated in this election—centrist Israelis continue to seek a political framework.

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Bibi Buries Report

No one saw this coming, right?

Well, that may be a lie.

Netanyahu set to bury Levy report on legalizing illegal West Bank outposts – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to bury the Levy Report, which recommends legalizing most unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and making it easier for existing settlements to expand, a senior politician who spoke with the premier about the issue told Haaretz yesterday.

I guess this must be awkward for Liam, who said this:

Levy Report, and responses from government ministers, spells bad news for Israel – Liam Getreu.

MK is right: Israel won’t be imploding today. But if the reaction from government ministers is anything to go by there will be action, or at least Netanyahu’s hand may be forced further than he’d like, especially as peace talks might be starting to begin again.

This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).

I guess everything after “Mk is right” really was redundant.

Far be it from me to gloat.

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Why the Levi Report would help Palestinians

Back on this theme, some detractors (who probably didn’t read the report before detracting) have attacked the Levy Report for bringing an end to the two-state solution and taking away Palestinian land rights.

For a quick and easy, cut-and-paste style rebuttal, I figured I would take a post by Benedict Roth on the latest uproar in the West Bank, followed by an excerpt from the Levy Report’s conclusions, then some commentary.

To wit (my bold):

The Prayers of Susya – The Daily Beast.

Susya is a tiny Arab village–more a shanty-town than a village–sandwiched between two Jewish settlements at the southern edge of the West Bank.  It has been repeatedly demolished by the Israeli army since its creation in the 1980’sIt is about to be demolished again, by court order, because it is sited on agricultural land and its residents have not been granted permission to build.

The Arabs whose shacks are being demolished have documents attesting title to their land. Ironically, they also hold title to the site of one of the Jewish villages, a few hundred yards away.  Indeed they lived there until the early 1980’s.  But they were ordered to leave by the military government after archaeological remains were found.  So they camped on their fields nearby.

… So, today, nearly every Palestinian construction site is “illegal” and is subject to demolition while the Jewish settlement programme proceeds apace, fuelled by a ready supply of building permits and funds.  By controlling Area C through its civil administration, Israel obtains all the benefits of annexation without incurring any obligation to grant its Arab residents legal and political rights.  Water, electricity, land, public services and votes are all reserved for Jews.

Levy:

a. The area of municipal jurisdiction of each settlement, if not yet determined, must be determined by order, taking into due consideration future natural growth.

f. In the event of conflicting claimants to land, it would be appropriate to adopt a policy whereby prior to any determination by the state regarding petitions for eviction or demolition, a thorough examination of the conflicting claims be conducted by a judicial tribunal dealing with land issues. This is all the more necessary with respect to claims of prior purchase or prescription, or where the possessor acted in a bona fide manner. Pending such determination, state authorities should be instructed to avoid taking any position in land conflicts and carrying out irreversible measures, such as eviction or demolition of buildings on the property.

g. To this end and with a view to facilitate accessibility by local residents to judicial tribunals, we suggest the establishment of courts for the adjudication of land disputes in Judea and Samaria, or alternatively, extending the jurisdiction of district court judges in order to enable them to handle in their courts, land disputes in Judea and Samaria.

h. It is necessary to draft into the security legislation a right for the public to review data banks administered by the various official bodies, including the Civil Administration, concerning land rights in the area of Judea and Samaria.


j. The composition of the Appeals Committee should be changed. It is presently manned by uniformed reserve officers, jurists, who are, of necessity, perceived at the least to be subordinate to, and even under the command of the Head of the Civil Administration. We feel that this situation is not proper, and therefore recommend that the Appeals Committee be composed of non-uniformed jurists, a factor which would contribute to the general perception of the Appeals Committee as an independent body, acting according to its own discretion.

k) The “Procedure for Dealing with Private Land Disputes” must be revoked. Such disputes must only be considered and adjudicated by a judicial body.

So let’s recap. A huge part of the problem (which, by the way, is a huge problem — I completely agree that the way the people of Susya are being treated is a disgrace) is that the people of Susya have been arbitrarily moved around and denied the right to enjoy land over which they hold title. This has been made possible due to the current Israeli Civil Administration in Area C; which has an Appeals Committee that is not a proper court and is essentially made-up of Administration officials; and which is overly secretive, extremely bureaucratic and very difficult for Palestinians to work with — whether they seek information or building permits.

I will note that I have a lot of (completely anecdotal) reason to believe that the difficulty in attaining building permits is not all down to direct discrimination, there is a significant amount of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption that presents hurdles to people who can’t “work the system” like Israelis can.

So what does the Levy Report recommend? That the Appeals Committee is abolished and replaced by a proper independent judiciary; that no new construction or demolition may take place without prior approval of this judiciary; that the judiciary is given the power to examine the land ownership rights that are currently ignored; and new freedom of information laws to make the whole process more transparent.

That, to me, looks a lot better for the people of Susya than the opaque, corrupt system they currently face, in which their claims are adjudicated by the people that they are going up against.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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More on the Levy report

IN A rather surprising move, Liam had this to say in response to my previous post:

Levy Report, and responses from government ministers, spells bad news for Israel – Liam Getreu.

MK is right

Of course, I knew that before, but it’s just so nice to see it on Liam’s blog.

On the other hand, Liam doesn’t really think I’m right and I don’t really think he’s right. So to briefly respond to what he actually said:

This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).

In fact, the Ynet report also discusses the radical departure from the current interpretation of the legal status of settlements and settlement outposts in the West Bank, based on the Sasson report delivered to right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005…

The Zionist Right prefers land to democracy. That’s fine. But it’s not Zionism. And it won’t enable the Jewish-democratic state of Israel to exist far into the future.

So aside from pointing out that sentence one directly contradicts sentence three,  in that last paragraph (the Zionist Right is not Zionist eh?), I would like to ask the following question: “so what?” Yes the report contradicts what Sasson said in 2005, but – as Liam points out – what it does do is merely re-iterate the “Zionist Right” position on the matter, one that has been consistent since the 1970s.

I see this as another example of an alarmist trend in Israel/Palestine commentary that is increasingly bothering me. Somehow a conflict that seems to change very little and very gradually (excepting the occasional sudden flare-up of violence) has a huge “turning point” every second week.

I don’t see anything particularly notable in a clearly stacked panel of dubious jurists – which was put together in order to appease people Bibi has won several victories over recently – releasing a report that says exactly what everyone thought it would. It isn’t indicative of any new trends or schools of thought in Israeli society.

NOW THAT Kadima has joined the Netanyahu-led coalition, the settlers actually have far less power than they had a few months ago. Regardless, Bibi has always been playing a double game – he fought the settlers on evacuating Ulpana and won, all the while declaring himself pro-settler and commissioning new homes in the settlement blocs that no-one believes are actually going anywhere. He clearly has his objectives in mind and he has his political strategy – one that has served him very effectively to date. I honestly cannot see how this report would make any difference to either his objectives or his strategy.

Bibi talks big, but he is a very cautious actor and his achievements come gradually and incrementally. For a while now, he has been very subtly undermining the outposts while maintaining the “pro-settlement” pretence. I don’t see how this report would change that, or anything else really.

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Levi report: don’t worry, the end of days is not quite upon us

There has been a lot of hysteria over the Levi Commission Report, released in Israel last night Australia time (for anyone who can read Hebrew, the report is available HERE. Unfortunately, my limited grasp of Hebrew does not extend to complex legal documents).

Like this for example:

Israeli report declares there’s no occupation, opens path to end of Zionism – Liam Getreu.

Accepting the substantial elements of this report means this: no more occupation, annexing the West Bank, giving citizenship to Palestinians, end of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state. Or, of course, it could really become apartheid, and not give Palestinians citizenship at all. This is what the Zionist Right is leading us to: the end of the two-state solution.

 I wouldn’t go searching for the four horsemen just yet. There were definitely some bad points in the report:

Netanyahu-appointed panel: Israel isn’t an occupying force in West Bank – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

the Levy Committee avers that government encouragement of any construction conferred an “administrative assurance,” even if there were no legal and official permits issued.

Now, Israel uses the same British common law system as Australia does to form the basis of its legal system. I have never heard of any concept of “administrative assurance” that can be used in lieu of a permit. Generally, you have no permit, you can’t build.

There are a few other recommendations that also sound a little poorly thought-out, like removing various powers to evict settlers and making it easier to build settlements.

But then there’s this:

The committee recommends legalizing all the outposts even without a retroactive government decision, and to do so as follows: To issue an order delineating the settlement and designating the adjacent areas as needed to accommodate natural growth; to cancel the need to get permission from the political echelons for every single stage in the planning process, and to not implement demolition orders that have already been issued.

See, that sounds a little familiar. It’s similar, in a way, to something Ehud Barak was suggesting a couple of months ago. That sounds like Israel unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank, which is altogether not a terrible idea IMO. It could reduce the bickering that goes back and fourth about borders and land swaps if Israel just says something to the effect of, “this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. You don’t like it? Make us a better offer.”

Also,

The committee also recommends the cancelation of the “bothersome use order” that allows the head of the Civil Administration to force settler-farmers off ostensibly Palestinian land, even if there is no Palestinian complainant … Levy believes that these are land disputes that the state should not involve itself in, but that should be sorted out before the courts. The committee, in fact, recommends setting up a special court to deal with land disputes in the West Bank.

That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea either – mostly because a court ruling is more binding than this strange state restraining order thing they have at the moment.

Finally, I’ll address the point about the Fourth Geneva Convention and belligerent occupation. I have looked into this at length, and it is basically true. The current international humanitarian law never predicted anything like the situation in the West Bank, so it is a huge grey area. Everyone who tells you it’s definitely legal or illegal is making laws where there aren’t any.

Irrespective of that, the current legal regime applied in areas B and C of the West Bank is a bizarre military administration derived from the Jordanian law as it stood in 1967 – it needs to be overhauled, and exercising some form of sovereignty is the only way that Israel could actually do that.

So basically, some good may yet come of this report. I’m also very skeptical of news reports on an 89-page document that was released a few hours before – we’re pretty much seeing reports on the executive summary. It’s never a good idea to jump to conclusions on these things.

In fact, in all probability, nothing will ever come of this report. It is dated 21st June – presumably when it was made available to cabinet, even though it only became public yesterday – meaning that the government has had it for over three weeks and hasn’t moved on it. My bet is that they won’t, this will be consigned to the massive vault of reports that caused a minor media shitstorm and were subsequently forgotten. The Israeli government must have somewhere.

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Today in the annals of “WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME ISRAELIS?!?”

I was very happy last night when the Israeli High Court rejected the Government’s compromise on the Migron settlement and upheld their previous decision that building settlements on privately-owned Palestinian land is illegal under Israeli law, therefore Migron should be demolished.

Good news for once, no? Well…

Rivlin agrees to hold Knesset ses… JPost – Diplomacy & Politics.

In light of Sunday’s court ruling, however, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said, “there is no option but to advance legislation that would give Migron legal standing at its present site without any relocation or evacuation.”

… MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) said that from the start it had been clear to him that the only solution to Migron was legislation.

The government should not destroy any community it helped to create, he said.

“There is no reason why Jews should be evacuated from their homes under a Likud government,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud). “We must make use of the responsibility given to us by the people to lead the nation and the settlements in Judea and Samaria according to the values of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and [former prime minister] Menachem Begin.”

… MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said that “the court proved today that it preferred Arab interests over Jewish settlement even at the expense of spilling blood. If blood is spilled in Migron it will be on the heads of the court justices.”

Likud activist Moshe Feiglin warned that parliamentarians who opposed the legislation would lose his support and that of his followers in the next election.

… “The High Court justices could have made a decision to avoid conflict in Israeli society,” said Forum director attorney Nachi Eyal. “Clearly the court thinks human rights are only for Palestinians, not for Jews.”

“What do you expect from a panel containing a justice who won’t sing Hatikva?” Eyal added, in a dig at Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who declined to sing the national anthem at Supreme Court president (emeritus) Dorit Beinisch’s retirement ceremony.

Ugh.

Let’s start with Danon: so this is against the spirit of Begin and Jabotinsky?!?! That would be the Begin who gave away the entire Sinai Peninsular – three times the six of Israel plus the West Bank plus Gaza? The Begin who sent a young Ariel Sharon to literally hose people off the roofs of the Sinai settlement of Yamit? And his mentor, Jabotinsky, the secular nationalist who never expressed much support for the Religious-Zionists who are trying to grab their “God-given land”?

Fortunately, Likkud stalwarts who do follow the Begin/Jabotinsky tradition of Revisionist Zionism are keeping to its ideals of a Jewish state that is secular and democratic by blocking everything the assholes quoted above are trying to push through. That said, Danon is the chair of World Likkud, he has a lot of power inside the party and is definitely getting more of his supporters onto the Knesset ticket. I am very worried for the future of Likkud if this continues, I have no doubt that he would do to Likkud what Barak did to Avoda.

Fortunately, there is still some integrity/competence in Likkud’s leadership, as evidenced by Bibi’s statement on the issue:

PM on Migron deal rejection: The … JPost – Diplomacy & Politics.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday reacted to the High Court’s rejection of a state request to delay the evacuation of the Migron Outpost until 2015, saying that “the government of Israel, along with its citizens, respects the court and acts according to the nation’s laws.”

And the guy who spoke about Joubran not singing Hatikva? Even Isi Liebler disagrees with him! There is pretty well a consensus in Israel that it is understandable for a non-Jew to feel uncomfortable singing about a “Jewish heart” yearning to be “a free people in our own land”. He stands for the anthem respectfully, but does not sing it – that is good enough for everyone else. What the hell is the ‘Legal forum for the Land of Israel’ anyway? And why are the Jerusalem Post paying them any attention?

As for Habayit Hayehudi and Halchud Leumi… well… we always knew they were nut-jobs.

I only hope that they get marginalised at the elections next year…

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Criticising an organisation you do not understand: J Street and AIPAC

To my readers: I’m sorry that this week has been completely focussed on Israel and Toulouse. Hopefully regular blogging will resume soon.

Myriam Miedzian says AIPAC’s policy is making American Jews less liberal on Israel. Her solution, naturally, is to plug J Street.

Myriam Miedzian: How the Split on the Jewish Left Helps AIPAC and What Can Be Done About It.

according to a 2011 poll commissioned by J Street 67 percent of American Jews would support U.S. leadership in helping to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict even if it meant “publicly stating its disagreements” with Israelis and Arabs. This is contrary to AIPAC’s position of pressuring our government into supporting Israel’s conservative leaders.

… Most American Jews remain exceptionally liberal  … It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that AIPAC influences U.S. Jews to be less liberal on Israel than on other issues.

I am completely sick of reading this kind of thing. I noticed that Miedzian hyperlinked references to most of what she said, but not to the bolded sentence. The reason why she didn’t? That is not AIPAC’s position.

J Street and its supporters everywhere have been dismantling a straw man for the past two years, completely missing what AIPAC in fact Read the rest of this entry »

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Beinart boycotting West Bank settlements and MK going to blog-war

Friend of the blog Liam Getreu and I were having a private email conversation over Peter Beinart’s recent New York Times op-ed — and upcoming book — which calls for Jews to boycott West Bank settlements. The piece has been creating a huge stir on the old interwebs, with responses being thrown-around everywhere and a particularly amusing-yet-insightful Twitter debate going on between Beinart himself, Palestinian researcher Hussein Ibish and MK favourite Jeffrey Goldberg.

The conversation between me and Liam has partly gone public in a post on Liam’s blog. Naturally, I feel that I must also respond in public. Here goes nothing:

Reaction to reactions to Beinart’s settlement boycott proposal – Liam Getreu.

while Beinart’s suggestion of boycotts is, yes, aimed at changing settlers’ behaviour (which may have a degree of naivety, if we think it’s going to instantly deconstruct everything overnight), but it’s also about making a moral stand: I do not support the settlement enterprise, and I don’t want my money going to support it. That’s an entirely legitimate point of view.

… Of course a boycott isn’t going to end the occupation, but it will help to undermine the economy that many have going there. And Beinart’s suggestion, that the money you would otherwise spend on settlement products is instead spent on democratic Israel’s products (or, another suggestion, split between that and Palestinian businesses?), is a good one. Your purchasing behaviour may help change realities, in some small way.

Liam is correct in that boycotts can be a legitimate political tool and, for the record, I am also in favour of the Israeli government ending the ludicrous and counter-productive tax breaks and other incentives that it still gives to Israelis who move over the Green Line.

That said, the circumstances surrounding a boycott of West Bank settlements make it impossible to make the point that Beinart and Liam want to make through a boycott of them.

It is important to remember that, with a few fringe exceptions, Jewish communities worldwide (Liam and Beinart included) are completely opposed to the BDS movement. The movement is dishonest to its very core, it claims to be about “Palestinian rights” and that it takes no stance on a one or two state solution to the conflict, however its fundamental tenets effectively call for the destruction of Israel and reject the idea that Jews are entitled to nationhood or self-determination. Boycotts are particularly touchy for Jews as they bring back spectres of the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses that served as a prelude to the Holocaust.

Beinart’s boycott idea is derived from Jews who are not comfortable supporting the BDS movement but still feel the need to “do something”; meaning that the West Bank boycott can never be wholly separated from the broader BDS movement. Indeed, as Omri Ceren observes, such initiatives regularly metastatise into full-blown BDS.

This is where Beinart’s thesis starts becoming increasingly problematic. Accepting a partial boycott of Israel is ostensibly akin to accepting some — if not all — of the BDS movement’s ideology. This leads to Read the rest of this entry »

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Reading between the lines on Area C demolitions

Palestinian state media on demolitions:

Maan News Agency: Arrested development: Strangling Palestine’s green power.

Cohen says if Medico International abandons development work in Area C, moving to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas where permits are not a problem, they would do little more than “painting the walls of Bantustans.”

“We cannot just facilitate a nice jail cell, and a system where people don’t have rights.”

… Green energy advocates saw a chance to circumvent the spiraling demolitions of Palestinian buildings in the West Bank, which doubled in 2011 according to the UN.

This is basically a refusal to implement the Oslo agreements, which left Area C under Israeli control. They clearly tried to find a loophole by building European-funded power stations on Israeli-controlled land without Israeli approval, thinking that Israel could not demolish them as it would create a problem with EU countries (which has been partially successful according to the article).

I am not defending the Israeli demolitions policy and I do recognise that it is quite onerous for Palestinians to get building approval (although this has as much to do with Israeli incompetence and corruption as actual discrimination – it’s not easy for anyone to get building permits in Israel unless they bribe the right official), however it strikes me that this is an attempt to do exactly what the Palestinians always accuse Israel of doing: build facts on the ground and grab land in lieu of an agreement. Yes, they would argue that it is rightfully their land, but so would the settlers. However correct either party is, building there is counter-productive.

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What is wrong with Israel #123413492345789342789

I know I’ve been doing a lot of these recently, but not a day goes by that I don’t read another article that makes me bang my head against the wall and just concede that we failed the whole “Israel” experiment because of ineptitude. Today, there were three:

1. Incentivising settlements

The government is planning to give new incentives to help grow 70 settlements over the Green Line. Sure, it is part of a broader plan to resolve housing issues and yes, it has not yet been given final approval and could still be revoked, but this is still a horrible policy. It is completely the opposite of what the government should be doing (i.e. introducing disincentives for moving to settlements). It is an unnecessary provocation and achieves no positive result at all aside from pandering to a minority of voters who do reliably vote for parties in the government. (Emphasis added).

70 W. Bank settlements on nationa… JPost – Diplomacy & Politics.

Around 70 West Bank settlements were on the list of communities eligible for housing and development grants that the cabinet approved on Sunday.

… It was difficult to change the list for political reasons, the official said. “But it is clear that we are aware of the sensitivities when discussing communities over the Green Line,” the official added … Still, in its notice to the press, the Prime Minister’s Office did not mention limitations to the housing incentives, which include money for development costs of up to NIS 150,000 for agricultural communities and NIS 107,000 for cities. Supplementary housing loans of NIS 100,000 are also available.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, “The decision is designed to encourage positive migration to the communities and to assist in finding solutions to ease the housing situation. The decision will also contribute to economically strengthening these communities.”

2. Fighting a cultural war between ministries

As Jeremy Ruden has identified, the Interior Ministry and the Housing Ministry are controlled by the ultra-orthodox Shas party and are giving benefits to the Haredi community. The Communication ministry is controlled by secular Likkud and is making life more difficult for Haredim. The result? A horribly run country.

Falsely-based economics – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

The first was the controversial proposal put forth by Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias from the Orthodox Shas party. The government has authorized the construction of about 5,000 housing units across the country which will be made available at a discount of NIS 200,000 for those who meet certain criteria.

… The benefit is awarded based on a point system which assigns weight to various qualifications. While IDF service is a factor, the number of years a person has been married is more decisive. For example, a 33-year-old religious person who never served in the army and does not work but has been married for 10 years would get considerably more points than a secular person of the same age who served, holds a job but has only been married for four years.

… But there is a flip-side to that coin. The Communication Ministry, under Moshe Kahlon from the Likud, is pushing for a directive which would have a negative impact on Internet Service Providers (ISP) which target or are owned by members of the religious community.

The Communication Ministry is proposing that in order for a company to be granted a license to be an ISP, it must provide manned technical support 24 hours a day, every day of the year, with the exception of Yom Kippur. ISPs serving the Orthodox communities are calling foul, and rightfully so. These companies argue that if they are forced to comply with such a regulation, they will lose their Shabbat-observant customers.

3. Our national identity is: the Holocaust

Merav Michaeli this time, on a recent poll which found that there is more or less a consensus amongst Israelis that remembering the Holocaust is important, whereas they disagree on things like belonging to the Jewish People, remembering Shabbat and living in Israel. In other words, the Shoah stands head and shoulders above Zionism, religion and culture as the thing that keeps the nation together. This is not to say that remembering the Shoah is unimportant, but it is very negative for it to form the basis of the identity of the entire nation.

I don’t agree with all of Michaeli’s pseudo-psychological analysis of Israeli identity, but she makes some very good points (emphasis added):

Our never-ending Holocaust – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

The survivors themselves have never been treated right. Just yesterday it was reported, once again, that half of Israel’s Holocaust survivors are dependent on welfare stipends and that the government has once again reduced its support of them.

At the same time, the “Hitlers” are always there: Just a week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said for the nth time that there is no shortage of those who want to exterminate us completely. In other words, there is no lack of reasons to continue to reinforce the fear of the Holocaust – which, according to his father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, has never ended.

So it is that we don’t have any rivals, adversaries or even enemies. Only Hitlers. This is how the Holocaust is taught in school, this how it is that Israeli students are taken to visit death camps – and how it came to be that, as Haaretz reported on Friday, just 2 percent of Israeli youth feel committed to democratic principles after studying the Holocaust and 2.5 percent identify with the suffering of other persecuted nations, but 12 percent feel committed to “significant” service in the Israel Defense Forces.

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