Opinion

The New Capital of Israel

Despite the Israeli settlement government’s decision to create yet more facts on the ground in Hebron, the camp still hoping for a two-state solution is silent

Residents clean a Palestinian house that was attacked by Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron December 5, 2008. Palestinians protested on Friday against a rampage by Jewish settlers in response to Israel's eviction of Jews from a disputed building in Hebron, and Israel deployed extra forces to contain the unrest. The settlers spray painted the Jewish Star of David and the word "Revenge" in Hebrew on the building.
REUTERS

Say what you will about U.S. President Donald Trump, but he knows how to put on a show. “The deal of the century” is a fabulous name for a peace plan that for nearly two years has been slated to be revealed “soon.” As of now, the unveiling of the plan is expected to be put off again, “to satisfy Netanyahu.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has recently called the plan “a waste of time” is certainly pleased, but even if “the deal of the century” does emerge in the end, the left wing shouldn’t get too excited. They shouldn't be tempted to believe that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of all people, will suddenly lead the process of dividing the land.

I recall what Netanyahu said to the Hershkovitz family from the settlement of Ofra in 2001, when he spoke as a “concerned citizen,” and was, apparently speaking freely. “How do we limit the withdrawals,” he explained: “I will interpret the agreement in a way that will enable me to stop this gallop back to the 1967 lines.”

And after he laid out how he used his power as prime minister, like a magician revealing his tricks to the audience, he boasted: “From that moment I actually stopped the Oslo agreement.”

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Netanyahu wants the continuation of the occupation like he wants the continuation of his premiership. He understands that to rule Israel, he must rule over millions of Palestinians. The occupation and the right-wing government go together. Only recently, with reports of the peace deal streaming out of Washington, the government transferred 22 million shekels ($5.9 million) for the construction of a “strong quarter” in the heart of Hebron, and the defense minister announced new construction over the city’s old vegetable market.

These things show the true, clear plan of Netanyahu and his government: He knows that there will be no negotiations and no diplomatic arrangement in which Hebron will be part of the Palestinian state. A government that builds and invests specifically in Hebron is not interested in reaching an agreement, but rather wants to turn Hebron into a symbol of an irreversible occupation.

Despite the dramatic implications of the right-wing government’s decision – to create yet more facts on the ground in Hebron – the camp still hoping for a two-state solution is silent. This is the moment to understand that there is no rehabilitation for the left nor will there be; Certainly not as long as the settlement government remains invincible, and not as long as the occupation continues in the heart of Hebron.

With elections coming into sight, the opposition parties must wake up. Instead of continuing its addiction to the eternal soap opera titled “the return of negotiations,” it must rise up and declare, without any connection to future negotiations, the settlement in Hebron must be evacuated immediately. Israel never held talks with the Palestinians discussing Hebron as a part of Israel, and there is no justification for the moral injustice and security burden of continuing to hold onto it.

Some 600 soldiers risk their lives there every day to protect 850 settlers who live among more than 200,000 Palestinians. The settlers act like thugs and routinely embitter the lives of the Palestinians. In the name of a distorted “security concept,” the army has turned Shuhada Street, once the bustling commercial thoroughfare of the city, into a “sterile” zone, for Jews only.

In the name of a “security concept,” Israeli soldiers are burdened with the immoral task of sentencing the Palestinians to a life of shame, poverty, humiliation, violence and daily suffering. Alongside the moral price Israel is paying, we must remember that the settlement is not secure. “A destruction zone” is what one officer who served in Hebron called it, and anyone else who served there knows exactly what he means. This violent reality endangers the lives of Israeli soldiers and civilians alike.

Last week a conference was to be held in the Knesset on the need for Jews to immediately evacuate the city, led by Meretz MK Michal Rozin and Joint List MK Dov Khenin and chairman MK Ayman Odeh. The speaker of the Knesset objected. As in Hebron, the right wing and its representatives in the Knesset are operating in the name of an imaginary, dangerous mandate. “Few are the cases in the annals of Judaism where such a wild bunch as this have taken upon themselves a mandate in the name of heaven,” the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wrote of the settler movement in his book “The Rabin Memoirs.”

What was done in the days following the Purim 1994 massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein at the Cave of the Patriarchs should immediately be corrected: Instead of waiting for the “deal of the century,” the settler government’s plot to turn Hebron into the eternal capital of the Israeli occupation must be thwarted.

The right wing has realized that as long as the occupation continues, with Hebron at its heart, the left will continue dying and so will democracy and peace. The question is whether the left wing realizes that to live, it must uproot the real danger to the continued existence and future of the state. Otherwise it will continue to leave the arena open for the unrestricted actions of the settlement government.

The writer is the director general of Breaking the Silence.