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You Want Planning? Take a Tip From the Settlers

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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IDF chief Aviv Kochavi, front right, visiting troops in the Galilee. 
IDF chief Aviv Kochavi, front right, visiting troops in the Galilee. Credit: IDF
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

In order to overcome the zigzagging and the confusion that are plaguing it, the Government of the State of Israel (henceforth: the nebbish) should get lessons in planning and governance from the Government of the Land of Israel. The latter will teach it how to coordinate, set aside matters of ego and prestige, and advance as one toward conquering the objective.

Before our astonished eyes the nebbish has been revealed in recent weeks in all its wretchedness, smallness and pettiness. This revelation could have been good news, because the arrogance and haughtiness of the Netanyahu government have actually absorbed a serious blow. It could also have been funny, were it not for the fact that millions of Israelis have been harmed by its total incompetence.

What is true is that such pathetic behavior paints the Green Line in a strong green hue. Everything that can be said about what is happening within the jurisdiction of sovereign Israel – chaos, panic, a lack of professionalism, small mindedness – is the opposite of what typifies the Judeo-Yesha (the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank) entity to the east of the Green Line. “Planning” is its middle name. It is characterized by foresight, perseverance, devotion and continuity.

To put a finer point on this: The defects of the Israeli Government are now being illuminated by the powerful spotlight of the coronavirus crisis. But the defects are nothing new. After all, the very same government and bureaucracy that are characterized by their lack of concern for the citizen in Israel and his/her welfare and their preference for the rich and the very rich, are exactly the same government and bureaucracy that have created the reality of Yesha-stan: The Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are imprisoned in their crowded enclaves, surrounded by an ever-stretching expanse of elite housing for Jews only. These expanses are outside Israel’s sovereign borders, but in effect they were annexed to it a long time ago. This is the Israeli version of “the end of the occupation.”

The creation of these expanses, enveloping the invisible and ignored enclaves, demanded long-term thinking, meticulous gathering of information and coordination among various groups – civilian and military, official and semi-official. The Palestinians have dubbed these coordinated mechanisms “Beit El.” What they mean is the Civil Administration, which is located on a huge military base adjacent to a settlement by that name, and opposite the eastern neighborhoods of El-Bireh. (Did someone once complain that Hamas operates from within a civilian population? The Israel Defense Forces is their inspiration.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

But the Civil Administration, a hybrid civilian-military creature, follows orders from and is subordinate to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a unit in Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. These are veteran organizations that work in harmony with the IDF, the Israel Police, the Settlement Department, the Jewish National Fund and representatives of the settlements. The Jerusalem Municipality and the Interior Ministry operate in a similar manner (in harmony with right-wing organizations Elad and Ateret Cohanim, and the JNF) in East Jerusalem, which has officially been annexed. All together they constitute the Government of the Land of Israel.

Rank-and-file Israeli Jews who are familiar with the state in its smaller version, within the borders of June 4, 1967, may find it hard to believe that the Judeo-Yesha entity is the product of careful planning, whose objective is also to thwart the Palestinian aspiration for independence and a state. We will inform these Israelis that in June, when it was clear that the Government of the State of Israel had not succeeded in halting a renewed wave of COVID-19, the Government of the Land of Israel found time to demolish 43 Palestinian residential units, 13 of them in East Jerusalem, and to leave 151 Palestinians, 84 of them minors, without a roof over their heads. In addition, bulldozers destroyed 36 non-residential structures, three of them in East Jerusalem.

We will also tell Israelis who are groaning under the chaos of the Netanyahu government, that these demolitions were planned as far back as the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yes, that long ago. When Mapai (the forerunner of Labor) was in power. The government of the Land of Israel appropriated huge areas that were under private and collective Palestinian ownership, for the use of the Israeli public or for the benefit of its army. Out of bounds for Palestinians. Earmarked for construction for Jews. That same government ordered the preservation of the “rural character” of the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In other words,it allowed only lo-rise construction there. In 1971 that same government came up with a military order that disbanded the planning committees in the West Bank Palestinian villages. In other words, it denied the Palestinians’ right to plan for themselves, and placed that task in the hands of Jews, (in the Civil Administration) who build for Jews and demolish for Palestinians. In the 1990s the government of the Land of Israel, headed by Labor-Meretz, continued to plan Yesha-stan and decided that most of the areas of the West Bank (Area C) would be cleansed of Palestinian construction.

Last month there was serious progress in that regard. The human rights NGO B’Tselem is keeping count and reports that in the first five months of this year the government of the Land of Israel demolished the same number of structures that it demolished in June alone: 30. In East Jerusalem it demolished six residential buildings during that entire period. In the first two weeks of July it already managed to destroy another 31 structures, according to United Nations statistics.

The prohibition against building in Palestinian locales, and the accelerated and hushed-up demolition of homes there, are evidence of multi-generational and multi-party adherence to the mission: to foment despair among the Palestinians and to force them to move abroad or to the enclaves, leaving the area free for Jews (yes, I know, I’ve already written that a million times). And now it turns out that while we are shorthanded when it comes to carrying out missions to save lives and livelihoods during the coronavirus era, there is more than enough money for inspectors, soldiers, bulldozer operators, legal experts and officials to carry out the most important mission of all: to destroy the lives of Palestinians.

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