Just a Stone's Throw From the Cave of the Patriarchs

The House of Peace in Hebron, as the instigators call it, is part of a real estate project that purports to help secure the route to the Cave of the Patriarchs - but its true purpose is to expand the residential area of Kiryat Arba.

The controversy over the evacuation of the House of Contention in Hebron is being conducted according to a script where the ending is known in advance. The only surprise is that the story's banality can arouse such emotion. Everyone involved is simply playing the same standard roles in a drama that has been running for years. The High Court of Justice makes an unclear ruling, the settlers divide up between the moderates who declare they will not be dragged into violence and the extremists who threaten a violent response; thus they enjoy the best of both worlds. The left denounces those who repudiate the rule of law and expect others to do their work, and the "responsible authorities" search for a compromise and try to put off the confrontation in the name of aspirations for unity and conciliation.

The results are known in advance because only the settlers have the troops ready for a stubborn and drawn-out battle, and the left is only willing to give the matter a few minutes for writing a blog or something, and maybe holding a demonstration on a Friday afternoon. The legal authorities try to avoid a confrontation, and sophisticated lawyers are busy contriving legal opinions that allow the issue of the House of Contention to be dumped on the ash heap of other decisions that were never carried out - and never will be.

All this drama is going on without the central character, around whose interests, which are supposed to be protected - or violated - the whole story is allegedly taking place. It is as if the Palestinians did not exist at all; the whole affair is an internal Israeli matter. The Palestinians appear to be apathetic in light of the hypocrisy. After they were disinherited from the Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (The Cave of the Patriarchs) and expelled from the historic center of Al-Halil (Hebron), what value is there in this building, which the Jews conveniently turned into their latest test case?

It seems suspiciously likely that each side knows very well that it's all a game; the question is if they are aware of the cynical roles played by the main actors behind the scenes. Quite a lot has been written about the hypocritical use of slogans describing the settlers as a cancerous growth metastasized , while the ones using these slogans are the ones providing the resources to feed the growth. But we need to step outside the political and even ideological context of the question of the settlements and those nurturing them and emphasize the decisive contribution of the extremely powerful economic interests hiding under the cover of security and ideological claims.

It is possible to describe the history of the settlements in the territories as the history of the enrichment and establishment of certain Israeli economic institutions, which in the name of Zionism are prospering from lawlessness and property theft from Palestinians.

There is no need to detail the process used by real estate tycoons and the "settlement bodies," which took control of huge tracts of land, and with their access to people in power and their control over the planning authorities built tens of thousands of dwellings on the land.

The cooperation of the defense authorities allowed them to claim valuable properties near the center of the country by influencing the path of the separation fence, as they did around the metropolitan areas of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Even the illegal outposts - which in theory were built as an expression of the Hilltop Youth's ideological revolt against the hostile government and even their own veteran settler parents who had become too established - are also not innocent of real estate considerations. "There is a need for tens of thousands of houses by 2020," said one Hilltop Youth leader. "Some will be here, because here there is infrastructure, there are good roads and it is close to the heart of the country," he said.

Even the House of Peace in Hebron, as the instigators call it, is part of a real estate project that purports to help secure the route taken by those on their way to the Cave of the Patriarchs - but its true purpose is to expand the residential area of Kiryat Arba.

The billions invested in infrastructure and construction in the West Bank have made contractors and private individuals rich and have been a strong force for economic growth, contributing to Israel's prosperity at the expense of the traditional peripheral areas of the country. Hundreds of factories built in industrial areas with enormous public investment took advantage of the generous benefits and their proximity to the center of the country. Much of this wealth was concentrated in economic institutions controlled by the settlers, allowing them the independence and resources to support the illegal outposts - including the House of Contention - without any need to depend on government budgets. It also allowed them to act contrary to the state's policies.

The settlers and their ideological sponsors are actually puppets in the hands of powerful forces that want to fan the dispute to guarantee the continuation of their economic and political power, putting into practice Samuel Johnson's adage that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Now it is time to carefully consider if all the loud opposition is not also serving the scoundrels.