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Abolish the IDF’s Civil Administration Imposed on Jews and Arabs Alike

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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From 'The Settlers.'
From 'The Settlers.'Credit: Philip Blaish
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

Horrific propaganda is being generated in Israel and exported to the world – that the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are subject to an occupation government and deprived of basic rights. In contrast, Israelis living in Area C – the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control – enjoy full civil rights. We have become a racist state, like South Africa under the Afrikaners. Pure apartheid.

The truth is exactly the opposite. Ever since the Oslo Accords were signed in the 1990s, the Palestinians living in the West Bank’s Areas A and B (around 95 percent of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria) have been citizens of the Palestinian Authority. PA citizens are subject to laws passed by the Palestinian parliament, and only to those. Israel doesn’t intervene in Palestinian legislation.

Liberal circles in Israel, including the country’s Palestinian citizens, have kept mum about the draconian laws the PA enacts and implements. Executions, discrimination against women, persecution of the LGBTQ community and a corrupt justice system don’t rouse their conscience and or bring them out to demonstrate the way they and their allies from abroad demonstrate against the Israel Defense Forces and Jewish settlements.

For 18 years, Israel’s Arab citizens lived under military rule. Various Attempts to abolish it didn’t succeed. The government led by David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai party, a precursor of today’s Labor, was vehemently opposed.

In 1963, the Herut party – the precursor of today’s Likud, led by the “fascist” Menachem Begin – and the left-wing Mapam party sponsored a bill to abolish military rule. Ben-Gurion torpedoed it. Only in 1966, after Levi Eshkol became prime minister, was it finally abolished.

Around 550,000 Jews and 100,000 Palestinians currently live in Area C under military governance. The Jews are Israeli citizens and subject to all the obligations imposed by Israeli law – taxes, army service, traffic laws, and so forth. But when it comes to rights – especially the permits needed for various activities, like construction – they are subject to military rule, which is oxymoronically called the Civil Administration.

The Civil Administration is the sovereign power that grants – or more often refuses to grant – construction permits and permits to buy land. Connecting to the electricity grid or even installing solar panels on one’s roof is possible only with the Civil Administration’s permission.

Many Jews once demonstrated against the military rule imposed on Arab Israelis (I was one of them). But nobody, including activists from Israel’s numerous civil society organizations, has demanded an end to the military rule imposed on Jews and Arabs alike in Judea and Samaria.

It is this anomaly, the 55-year-old military governance, that the Religious Zionism party now seeks to end. Because it has no faith in the promises made by Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu – “a liar par excellence,” as party chairman Bezalel Smotrich once said – it demanded, and Netanyahu was forced to give it, the right to appoint a minister within the Defense Ministry. This minister’s main task will be civilianizing (not annexing) Area C and subjecting what happens there to Israel’s civilian government agencies.

Current Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s weeping and wailing against this appointment, which will ostensibly undermine the next defense minister’s position, is hypocritical. During his first term as defense minister, in June 2020, Gantz appointed another member of his party, Michael Biton, as a minister in charge of “civilian and social affairs in the Defense Ministry.”

That is exactly, and I do mean exactly, what Smotrich is demanding – a minister in charge of civilian affairs. The only difference is that from now on, Israelis in Judea and Samaria won’t be second-class citizens.

The next necessary step is implementing recommendations of the 2012 report written by a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy. The man who set up that committee – but then torpedoed implementation of its conclusions, even after Donald Trump became U.S. president – was Benjamin Netanyahu.

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