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It’s Not Surrender to the Settlers, It's Israeli Policy

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli border police officers in front of a disputed building in which a hundred settlers took up residence in the West Bank city of Hebron. July 26, 2017
Israeli border police officers in front of a disputed building in which a hundred settlers took up residence in the West Bank city of Hebron. July 26, 2017Credit: Nasser Shiyoukhi,AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Some friendly advice to Peace Now and its spokespeople: Stop presenting land theft in the West Bank as “part of the government’s ongoing surrender to the settlers’ demands.” The dog and its tail are one and the same. The settlers’ demands and the Israeli government’s plans are intertwined, and not just now. To say about the outgoing Netanyahu government – and the new one expected to be formed – that they have “surrendered” to the settlers is really nothing but fake news.

The Pavlovian statement on “surrender to the settlers” is this time part of Peace Now’s May 2 report on the approval of two new bypass roads in the West Bank. On April 3, the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Ahvat Ben Hur, signed the orders to expropriate 807 dunams (202 acres) of land belonging to the villages of Burin, Hawara, Beita, Awarta, Yasuf, Yatma, al-Sawiya and Beit Omar and the city of Halhul – all of which have at one time suffered hostile takeovers of their land.

On May 1, the roads subcommittee of the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Council approved the permits to pave the two roads. One is 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) long and the other is about 7 kilometers long.

For years, talk has been in the air of land expropriation for two bypass roads for Jews who have settled south and east of Nablus, and south of Bethlehem. The planning authorities have always looked for and found the appropriate moment, based on the public spirit and political and budgetary conditions, to carry out their mission: to procure as much territory as possible for Jews and push out as many Palestinians as possible.

The orders discuss buying ownership and taking possession for public needs. In practice, this is the continuation of the organized armed robbery that military and civilian legal experts and advisers have clad in respectable-sounding words. Orchards and fields will be erased, the livelihood and property of hundreds of people will be harmed, a landscape that has been shaped over hundreds of years in a delicate duet between nature and humans will be destroyed. But this is nothing new, certainly not in the West Bank.

You will say that this is the price paid everywhere around the world for people’s desire for development and convenience. But we’re paving and upgrading roads in the West Bank to incite more Jews, from the Diaspora too, to carry out a crime and settle there. We’re paving roads in order to block Palestinian agriculture, industry and planned construction. Even if the Palestinians are allowed to travel on a certain road, it has been tailored to fit the logic of the Jews’ needs, not the Palestinian communities’ spatial planning and needs. Moreover, the roads help to further split the Palestinian enclaves into sub-enclaves separated from one another.

Attributing an official and consistent policy to “surrender” to the power of a specific group of people was already wrong and deceptive back in the ‘70s immediately after the Six-Day War. The massive land grab in Jerusalem and its surroundings and in the Jordan Valley prove it. But at the time at least a majority of Israel’s Jews weren’t trapped in the messianic real estate project of the Greater Land of Israel, and there was the impression that this majority would support a full withdrawal in return for peace.

File photo: Inside the West Bank village of Hawara.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The many material enticements have so far drawn to Judea and Samaria-stan, including East Jerusalem, only a minority: about 10 percent of Israel’s Jews. But most of the Jewish public now sees the Jordan Valley, Area C (61 percent of the West Bank) and the area beyond the separation barrier as part of the State of Israel.

The talk about the government’s surrender to the settlers also exposes a denial of the similarity and continuity between the land grab stunts implemented in the occupied territory and those in force inside Israel proper. Here, the Palestinians citizens of Israel, whom we failed to banish, are also doomed to living in densely populated enclaves. The word “surrender” lifts responsibility from the Jewish Israeli public and from key Jewish figures and organizations in the Diaspora who support Israel’s policy of forcing the Palestinians out from their space.

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