Analysis |

In Absurd Theatre of Israel, Netanyahu Submits to Settler Outlaws

To avoid the violent scenes that ensued during the last evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, Netanyahu was willing to spend millions and bend every rule of proper governance.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Illustration: After accepting his offer for evacuating the illegal West Bank outpost, Amona residents won't forget Netanyahu's push for demolition of Israeli Arab homes.
Illustration: After accepting his offer for evacuating the illegal West Bank outpost, Amona residents won't forget Netanyahu's push for demolition of Israeli Arab homes.Credit: Amos Biderman
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

In the theater of the absurd that only enlightened, progressive Israel is capable of creating, the lengthy political and legal saga of Amona’s evacuation reached its climax on Sunday with the following scene: In the dead of night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was summoned from his bed to his office, where the representatives of this community of lawbreakers awaited him.

The outpost residents, whose eviction was ordered by the High Court of Justice, then proceeded to bargain with him over the terms on which they will leave their homes – which were knowingly built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land. During those same hours, in the illegal outpost itself, people were building barricades and other structures to thwart the eviction and make life difficult for the evictors.

Our leader, who has been described in the past as “stressed and pressured,” justified his reputation. Just one week after he presented them with a deal over which he had labored for weeks – which they rejected – he sweetened his offer by abusing the law and pulling out a problematic piece of legislation that has never before been used in the territories: the Absentee Property Law.

All this so that the criminals would be so kind as to evacuate quietly, without causing him any unpleasantness.

He heaped praise on their heads, promised them a deluxe eviction – new houses and financial compensation from the state treasury. He remembers all too clearly the scenes from the violent evacuation of another part of Amona a decade ago, under his predecessor, Ehud Olmert. Those images starred in his Likud party’s campaign advertisements in 2006. Under no circumstances does he want such scenes to recur on his watch.

To this end, he’s willing to pay generously. In money – the scandalous sum of 130 million shekels ($34 million), which will be stolen from welfare, education, health and housing – but also in personal humiliation and trampling over every rule of logic, order, sovereignty and dignity that ought to guide the government of a state ruled by law. Fortunately, he has an attorney general in his own image in the person of Avichai Mendelblit, who is helping him make this legal abomination kosher.

For Netanyahu, anything can be sold at a discount or mortgaged for the sake of his own political survival. The man who just a week ago declared that he continues to support the two-state solution has proven he will fold like an accordion under pressure from 40 families in a single illegal outpost in the middle of nowhere. So how exactly will he evacuate 100,000 Jews from their homes in isolated settlements?

An Israeli celebrating at the entrance to the illegal outpost of Amona, December 18, 2016.Credit: Nir Keidar

Until a few days ago, it appeared that time wasn’t on the Amona residents’ side. The 25th of the month is rapidly approaching, and they were told they had to say yes or no to the offered deal. But on Sunday we discovered, not to our great surprise, that the one who was sweating the most at the sight of the clock’s moving hands was the prime minister.

The residents exploited their negotiating ability to the full. And he exploited his capacity to be extorted, also in full.

Amona residents are emerging from this story with heaps of spoils. They’ll become the heroes of the settlement enterprise. It would be no surprise to see one lighting a torch on Independence Day, for the glory of the State of Israel.

Moreover, the across-the-board cut in government ministries’ budgets was exquisitely timed – just a week after the National Insurance Institute released its annual poverty report, which once again placed Israel at the top of the OECD’s poverty rankings. On Sunday, Israel’s citizens received a suitable Zionist response to this embarrassment from their government: a brutal cut in the budgets of the social and welfare ministries.

Every single mother who is forced to leave her miserable public-housing apartment should know where the money went: to the settlers of Amona; to ultra-Orthodox education; and to the concurrent operations of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and its planned replacement, Kan.

It’s no wonder that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is being asked to give up 32 million shekels from his ministry’s budget, was the only minister to raise a bitter outcry. He’s the only one who’s paying twice: His public broadcasting reform has been liquidated, and now he’s also losing out to Amona residents.

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