Opinion |

Way to Go, Amona Settlers

The huge amounts of money that will come raining down on the heads of 40 families from the illegal Amona outpost are protection money, not compensation for evacuation.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A Jewish man covered in a prayer shawl prays in the settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 18, 2016.
A Jewish man covered in a prayer shawl prays in the settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 18, 2016.Credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Congratulations to the residents of Amona. The deal they managed to get out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not even he could get from his talks with the United States.

If we divide the aid Israel is to receive from the United States, $3.8 million a year, by the number of Israel’s citizens, it comes to about $500 a person a year, or $5,000 over the decade the agreement is in force. The robbers of Amona, in contrast, will be getting about $250,000 per family, and that doesn’t include construction expenses, moving, security and “miscellaneous,” which will come to many times more, even without stretching it over 10 years.

One can’t help but be filled with admiration for the genius of the trailer-dwellers. That’s the way a proper plan for affordable housing should look in a wealthy welfare state. And ideologically speaking, it’s a much better deal than the Gaza Strip settlers got, because while the Gaza settlements were erased, at Amona the number of settlers will not decrease. On the contrary, according to the agreement, the number of houses to be built at the new site will double.

The outcry in Israel, the patron state of the settlers, on this double plunder – first over the stealing of Palestinian land and then the stealing from the public purse – is ludicrous. You can’t have it both ways: If the settlers are an inseparable part of the State of Israel, then we should be happy that at least one group has come to enjoy comfortable living conditions and a generous allowance. Rain doesn’t fall equally on everyone either. That’s no reason to attack someone on whom a few drops fell.

And if they’re not part of the State of Israel, all the more reason to accept their good fortune without complaint. Doesn’t the state itself rob from the American coffers? Why shouldn’t the settler state act with Israel the way Israel acts with the United States?

So what’s really so infuriating about the Amona deal? It seems that a lot of Israelis are eating their hearts out over not having put up a trailer on a piece of Palestinian land. The territories, it turns out, are the land of opportunity. The frustration of these people is like the frustration of people who didn’t buy a small apartment in Warsaw in time, or who didn’t get their hands on an oil drill in Russia during the U.S.S.R.’s collapse, or who didn’t insert themselves as middlemen in the submarine purchase.

The anger is over the stupidity, the insult is because of the feeling of being had, because of the dream that was so close and fell into the hands of robbers.

At least the Palestinians can be satisfied; except, of course for the Palestinian landowners, who can only dream that their land will be returned to them – Israel will find some trick, and it will be completely legal, how not to give back the plunder. In the deal with the Amona settlers, the government of Israel created a price list for land, and the Arabs of Israel can also use this list. Netanyahu is already racing the bulldozers to Arab villages to demolish illegal structures. They should hurry up and demand conditions for evacuating their houses equal to those of the brethren from Amona.

They’ll have a problem though, because the government can claim, and rightly so, that Amona is not the State of Israel, and that Jewish law in the territories is not the same as Israeli law inside the pre-1967 border. No, the government will explain, it’s not apartheid. That’s how two enemy states conduct themselves. When eastern Israel is seeking to bring down western Israel, the huge amounts of money that will come raining down on the heads of 40 families are protection money, not compensation for evacuation.

And indeed, some 150 million shekels, or nearly $40 million, is a small price to pay for the survival of the government. But soon western Israel will be able to free itself of this burden. The settlers will be able to go straight to the White House and demand their part in the aid, instead of constantly bargaining anew with the enemy government in Israel and its treacherous High Court of Justice.

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