Naftali Bennett's West Bank Reality Check

Palestinian water shortage? Gaza blockade? Anti-Semitic preaching, says minister.

Noa Osterreicher
Noa Osterreicher
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Noa Osterreicher
Noa Osterreicher

One of the Facebook pages I follow is that of Breaking the Silence, the organization that presents testimonies from former Israeli combat soldiers who served in the territories about crimes they committed against Palestinians. Most of the comments in response to these posts follow a predictable pattern: They call the group’s activists “traitors” who deserve to die, and claim that every word from Breaking the Silence is a lie paid for by left-wing movements and foreign governments.

When it comes to Breaking the Silence, the despair that such responses arouse in me is replaced by real amazement: For by nationalist Israeli standards, the organization’s founders and the people giving the testimony surely qualify as praiseworthy heroes: combat soldiers whose entire military service was dedicated to safeguarding the settlers’ security. However, apparently Israeli citizens who unhesitatingly take the IDF Spokesperson’s Office at its word, consistently and fervently refuse to believe the testimony of soldiers – just because they dare to speak about reality.

That same fervor was evident in the hysterical arm-waving of Naftali Bennett in the Knesset this week, following the speech by the head of the European Parliament. “We will not accept false preaching of morality,” cried Bennett, “and certainly not in German!” What exactly did the European Parliament chief say? He cautiously inquired about the truth of the rumor that water allocation to Palestinians in the West Bank is significantly lower than what is given to the settlers. And the distinguished German gentleman also mumbled something about the siege on Gaza. Bennett, who refuses to recognize the ’67 lines, felt that a line had been crossed and stormed out of the auditorium as members of his faction shouted about the Jews’ divine right to the land.

The European Parliament chief’s statements reflected just a microscopic speck of the reality in the field, but the weight was too much for Bennett and his cohorts. Funny, they fell apart just when given the chance to boast of their accomplishments, of their successful enterprise:

A World Bank report from 2011 found that water distribution in the West Bank was 80:20 in favor of the settlements. The Israel pipeline that pumps water to the vineyards and swimming pool of the Susiya settlement, for instance, passes through the lands of Palestinian Susiya, but doesn’t water them. After the IDF destroyed about 30 wells in the Susiya area, the Palestinians must get their drinking water from Israel, in jerrycans they fill from a small water tank brought to their village about once a week.

And what about the blockade of Gaza? The one the Mavi Marmara tried to break? Well, it looks like the Israeli naval commandos raided the ship for nothing, the nine Turks were killed for nothing and Israel will pay $20 million in compensation for nothing: Turns out the blockade is just an anti-Semitic invention.

This is the same blockade that Israel informed Turkey just this week it is not going to lift.

That’s right - the official position of the Israeli government: There is no blockade – and we do not intend to lift it.

Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett at a faction meetingCredit: Emil Salman

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