Last August, something akin to a miracle happened to Palestinians. The Civil Administration strayed from its customary course and announced that it would promote the recognition of 50 dwellings in Khirbet Zakariyyah, a tiny West Bank hamlet at the western edge of the Etzion Bloc.
This village, situated in the midst of a contiguous cluster of settlements, contains 350 residents, many of whom work on farms in adjacent settlements, at a supermarket at a nearby road junction, at the nearby gas station or even at the Etzion yeshiva. Over the years, friendly relations were formed between villagers and settlers, impressive enough to receive media attention (as reported in Haaretz, October 14).
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Pretend to be surprised: it turns out that friendship with the settlers was of a limited nature. It was contingent on the Palestinians serving the settlers and remaining without legal status. When these friends from the settlements found out about the Civil Administration’s decision to officially recognize their neighbors’ village and to approve the building of infrastructure there, they rushed off to persuade the Defense Ministry to revoke this decision, arguing that it would endanger them and breach the contiguity of Jewish settlements.
The Jewish National Fund immediately volunteered to help the settlers in making things bad for their neighbors. The JNF’s representative, attorney Dina Yahav, rushed to demand that the Civil Administration issue a stop order to this move, claiming that the land belongs to the JNF. Shamefully, the settlers also found willing ears in the form of Defense Minister Benny Gantz. A letter sent to him by 17 settlers and a strike by Civil Administration employees achieved their goal. The first discussion of this plan was postponed. Two weeks ago, after being pressured by settlers to come for a visit, Gantz decided to reconsider the plan to recognize these dwellings.
Pretend to be surprised again: While the recognition of a tiny Palestinian village is blocked, Israel, through its Housing Ministry, is promoting the construction of thousands of apartments for Jews beyond the Green Line (1967 borders). Last week, the Jerusalem local planning committee approved the expropriation of areas in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood, as well as filing plans for the expansion of the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood.
This week, hearings will begin regarding the establishment of a new settlement in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, with a meeting scheduled for next month to discuss a plan for a huge new Jewish neighborhood in the Atarot area, also beyond the Green Line. The promotion of such extensive plans in Jerusalem and surrounding areas is a total violation of the Oslo Accords, and their realization will completely bury the possibility of a two-state solution.
If Gantz yields to settler pressure and halts the recognition of a tiny Palestinian hamlet, with the government in tandem promoting construction plans in Jerusalem after 30 years of a freeze, then this government is apparently not a government of “professionals” that eschews decisions outside the consensus, but an annexationist right-wing government that serves the interests of the settlers. Parties that do not believe in annexing territory and in entrenching the apartheid character of this country must make it clear to Bennett that this government has no mandate for doing so.
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The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.