Settlers Need Not Fear Netanyahu, and They Know It

Our day of rage was a far cry from the huge protests staged by the Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni youth. But let's face it, the people – in this case the settlers – don't really want to 'bring down' our 'regime.'

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Several new important dates have recently been added to the historical calendar. December 17 was the day that Mohamed Buazizi ignited the Tunisian revolution, January 25 was the day the revolutionary Day of Rage was declared in Egypt, and on February 16, it made its way over to Libya. Now we, too, have a day to remember: March 3, the day of rage for Jewish settlers fighting the Israeli occupation.

On the face of it, the only ones raging were the settlers of the Havat Gilad outpost, where occupation forces demolished a few structures. It would seem that this serious assault on settler rights to build as they choose has nothing to do with Israeli citizens. But it would be a mistake to think the occupation forces will stop there. Tomorrow, they may take aim, heaven forbid, at the Harsha and Givat Hayovel neighborhoods of Eli, nice neighborhoods with spacious homes built on Palestinian land, but as we know, the Israeli occupation will use any excuse to kick settlers out of their homes.

Credit: Amos Biderman

So this day of rage should not have come as any surprise. Neither was it that impressive: some stones, some burning tires, a few blocked crossroads. A far cry from the huge protests staged by the Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni youth, but it's a start. Like many thousands, I, too, received an email inviting me to take part in the day of rage. Truth be told, I was scared. In Egypt, the protesters knew that "the army and the people are one." Here, go figure. Until recently, you could count on the army and police not to hurt the settlers, most certainly not the innocent "hilltop youth," but it turns out the security forces fired plastic bullets at the settlers rioting at Havat Gilad, the chief of police dispatched special units trained in riot control, and who knows, they might also fire live ammunition one day, like they did in Libya and Bahrain. "Barak is capable of using real bullets that kill next time, because his contempt for the settlers has crossed every red line," said MK Yaakov Katz. "The prime minister should fire him."

There was only one familiar slogan missing from all the local spectacle: "The people want to bring down the regime." Because in this case, the people - the settlers, that is - don't really want to bring down the regime. This regime - which for years has put off evacuating their illegal outposts, which turns a blind eye to their illegal construction activities, which scornfully rejected the proposal to freeze settlement construction in exchange for top-line fighter jets, which established racist procedures for acquiring citizenship and which probes human rights organizations - is a regime that should stay put, albeit with some improvements. It needs to be shown where it erred and how to rectify its ways, and if need be, threatened. Whoever requires proof can find it on the Internet, which serves as fertile ground for the ideological struggles of the Jewish right, just like it does for the Arab revolutionaries. Here, for example, is what Moshe Feiglin wrote on the Srugim website on the settlers' day of rage: "Netanyahu is not a crook like Olmert. Like he told the Likud faction, he is under international pressure and appears to have given in . . . It may be that it was simply more convenient for him to let Ehud Barak and lefty bureaucrats Shai Nitzan, Mike Blass and their ilk, start a war against the pioneers of the hills, the settlers and builders of the land of Israel, and try and create new rules for treating them . . . Whether or not he knew in advance or not, Netanyahu can't escape overall responsibility for this disgusting act, and unless he clearly rejects using weapons against settlers, he'll end up like Olmert."

Feiglin is wasting his threats: Netanyahu doesn't avoid responsibility, he re-invents it. The demolition of a few buildings at Havat Gilad may yet come to serve as insurance for other outposts, for illegal neighborhoods and for permits for thousands of new housing units. Because the same Netanyahu who sent bullies to Havat Gilad decided last week that while the government will demolish structures built on private Palestinian land, it will also legalize settlements and homes built without permission on state land. The illegal will become legal with the strike of a pen, at almost zero cost. So why bring down the regime?



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