Israel's Celebrations of Folly

The real question isn't why judicial branch didn't participate in event marking 50 years of settlements, but why state wasn’t too embarrassed to hold such an event

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech during a celebration of the 50 years of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, September 27, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech during a celebration of the 50 years of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, September 27, 2017.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP
Haaretz Editorial

On Wednesday evening, in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some government ministers (mainly from Likud and Habayit Hayehudi), a ceremony was held in Gush Etzion to celebrate “the liberation of Judea, Samaria, Jordan Valley and Golan Heights.” The event was produced by the Culture Ministry’s Information Center, and because it was a state event, a Supreme Court justice was expected to attend as a representative of the judicial branch, as protocol dictates for state ceremonies.

But when recently retired Supreme Court President Miriam Naor became aware of the event’s controversial content, she canceled the participation of the judicial representative, Justice Neal Hendel. In addition, MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) had asked Naor to cancel her representative’s appearance on grounds that it was a political event.

Naor did the right thing by canceling the justice’s attendance. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Culture Minister Miri Regev can roll their eyes and accuse the judicial branch of politicizing, but that would be a distortion of the truth. It was a ceremony that had nothing to do with nonpartisan governance, and was rather a clearly political ceremony that officially changes the nature of the territories to being liberated ones.

The perception that Israel is not an occupier but a liberator is the foundation of Israel’s primary domestic political dispute. Israeli society is torn with regard to the question of the territories and their future. The democratic and law-abiding public, both in Israel and the world, cannot accept a situation in which maintaining control over millions of people without granting them citizenship is legitimate good governance.

Israel occupied the territories 50 years ago and if there had been no dispute over the ownership of the territories it would have annexed them long ago, declared it sovereign Israeli territory and granted citizenship to millions of Palestinian residents. But even the most right-wing government in the country’s history understands that the territories are occupied, that Israel has no sovereignty over them and that continuing its military control over the territories and its Palestinian population is illegal.

Expecting the Supreme Court to send a representative to an event celebrating the state’s biggest legal calamity was ridiculous in the first place. The real question is not why the judicial branch did not participate in an event marking 50 years of the settlement enterprise, but why the State of Israel wasn’t too embarrassed to hold such an event. The real problem isn’t with Miriam Naor, but with the prime minister, whose promise that “there will be no more uprooting of communities in the Land of Israel,” proved yet again that the primary trait of his government is submission to the settlers. On Wednesday evening a ceremony was held in Gush Etzion celebrating folly and injustice that have been going on for 50 years.

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