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Israel Needs a Palestine National Fund

Carolina Landsmann
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The Alumot outpost in the West Bank, November 2018.
The Alumot outpost in the West Bank, November 2018. Credit: Ilan Assayag
Carolina Landsmann

When the Yesha Council of settlements realized that its annexation dream had been shelved due to the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates, it lowered its expectations and launched a campaign to legalize illegal settlement outposts. To change their image, in line with the spirit of the times, it also replaced the word “outposts” with “young settlements.”

This euphemism is being used to depict the outposts’ status as a social and humanitarian problem of second-class citizens, poor pioneers discriminated against by the sovereign elites who aren’t aware of their sovereignty and enjoy privileges reserved for the hegemons living west of the Green Line.

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Just like that, without any apologies, the settlements are embracing the language of rights and demanding equal civil rights from the state. Liberty and justice for all, like in America.

A few days before the Knesset dissolved, it managed a preliminary vote in favor of government funding for illegal outposts. And the support didn’t come only from right-wing parties. Three legislators from Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan also supported the bill, which would grant legal status to a list of outposts in the West Bank and entitle the residents to municipal services until the legalization process is completed.

Before outrage makes it impossible for you to remain in your seat, it’s worth stopping long enough to realize that this provides a golden opportunity that conforms with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new embrace of Israeli Arabs. If the new settlers insist on positioning themselves as pioneers settling land that Israel considers its own, and if they’re hoisting the banner of equality for second-class citizens, why not add young Arab Israelis to the pioneering corps, set up illegal outposts for them in the territories and then let them demand full recognition of their young settlements?

This would be a kind of Arab Israeli version of the pre-state “tower and stockade” operation. It would also have an element of poetic justice. And of course, it would have important historical associations. Just imagine young Arab Christians setting up outposts in the greater Bethlehem Area (Nativity Hill A).

The Arab Israeli settlement enterprise in the territories could be a complement to what the UAE did by buying the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, which is reminiscent of the Jewish National Fund. And when I say JNF, I of course mean the Palestine National Fund. Instead of “with blood and fire we’ll redeem Palestine,” now they’ll sing “with money and settlement” we’ll redeem it – just like their Jewish cousins redeemed the Land of Israel years before the state’s establishment.

The love story between Jews and Gulf Arabs is just beginning. The amount of money that our Emirati suitors, and perhaps later the Saudis as well, will want to spend here is infinite. And if you think about it, why stop at Beitar when it’s possible to buy Jerusalem? And what about real estate in Jaffa?

If Israel has put itself up for sale and the Chinese can buy Haifa Port, why not Bahrain? And if evangelicals can fund Jewish settlements on Palestinian land to hasten Judgment Day, what’s preventing the Emiratis from funding an Arab Israeli settlement enterprise on that same land to express pan-Arabic solidarity?

According to Peace Now, there are currently 124 outposts. The authorities allowed most of them to grow for years, either through direct support or by turning a blind eye.

So in the spirit of equality now blowing from the territories, led by the Young Settlement Forum and the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset, it’s only natural to think a few Arab Israeli outposts would initially be welcomed. But why be megalomaniacs? We’ll make do with one.

“This is a battle over consciousness,” the founder and chairman of the Young Settlement Forum said. He’s damn right. This is indeed a battle over consciousness – over every inch of it.

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