Our rabbis taught: When is a handful of homes on the hilltops of Judea and Samaria a “new settlement,” and when is it a “neighborhood” of an existing settlement? It was decided: It depends if you’re buying or selling. And, just as importantly: You must know who you are dealing with, and who you might have to answer to in the future.
When the Peace Now scouts find new building work, they send reports of new settlement construction to their agents in Europe or the United States. When the U.S. ambassador asks for explanations, the Foreign Ministry explains that the construction constitutes an “adjacent neighborhood” of a preexisting settlement. When the rightist factions of Likud and Habayit Hayehudi are in need of a fig leaf to justify the fact that they’re sitting in a Netanyahu government - which through Tzipi Livni is advancing the construction of a Palestinian state in the West Bank - the neighborhood is magically transformed into a community called Leshem, and called the “first legal community” in Samaria in 20 years.
The interests of both the right and left in Israel are clear. Their vocabularies are well known, and they are both guided by internal grammatical rules - even if sometimes it’s the grammar of misfortune.
The more difficult question is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would agree to provoke the Americans, explicitly or implicitly, and declare Leshem a “new community”? Why is Netanyahu trying to placate the rightist faction of his party, and throwing sand in the eyes of his coalition partners?
In order to understand Netanyahu’s actions, we must understand where he is going - and if he is buying or selling. After this month’s holidays Netanyahu plans to make a new “Bar-Ilan speech.” In this speech he intends to declare that he cannot reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, and that he plans to propose a temporary arrangement before the Knesset and the cabinet. This arrangement will include a comprehensive retreat toward the separation fence (not a full retreat, so as to leave something for the next surrender). In return, Israel will receive exactly what it recently received for releasing 100 murderers. That is, nothing. Not the end of the conflict; no end for right of return requests; no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; no united Jerusalem under Israeli control.
Quietly, they will whisper to us that this agreement is an Israeli consideration for American willingness to once again seriously reconsider its position on the Iranian nuclear reactor, and to stop pressuring us for a few months. That’s Netanyahu’s plan. It’s worrying and well known to the “land of Israel loyalists” within Likud, and is also known in Habayit Hayehudi as well. They know what Netanyahu and Livni are planning to do, but they hope the Arabs will save us. They are unwilling to publicly come out and expose Netanyahu’s betrayal of his own state ideology. They do not plan – at least not yet – to consolidate all of the opposition to this plan into one bloc.
Netanyahu has sold them a new “community” in order to make it easier for them to stay in the government, until it’s too late. This way they can convince themselves, and their voters, that someone who intends to retreat from Samaria wouldn’t build a new community there right now. They have forgotten that diversion and deception are basic tactics in any war: Soldiers are often sent to conquer territory without any intention of holding onto it, in order to confuse the enemy and surprise them in a different sector. That is Netanyahu’s ploy. He is selling the Land of Israel.
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