Torpedoing Any Possibility for Peace

Judaizing East Jerusalem could eventually torpedo a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Haaretz Editorial
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East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Haaretz Editorial

Efforts to torpedo any possible future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians continue. It’s the same method as always: general, noncommittal remarks about Israel’s desire for peace, along with actions in the field that empty those words of any meaning and threaten to make the situation irreversible.

About three weeks ago, settlers from the right-wing Elad association of East Jerusalem. A large police contingent accompanying the provocateurs was forced to fend off stone-throwing Palestinians, but the goal was achieved – another spoke in the wheels of a possible diplomatic compromise.

As is his wont in such cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained silent. Perhaps he favors mass Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem; perhaps he doesn’t. It’s not important, because his primary aim is not to upset his voters. The country’s future is secondary to his chances of winning another term. Luckily for him, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett filled the void and explained that the Silwan move was an event “of historic dimensions.”

On Sunday night, history got another dimension. Once again , this time into two empty buildings in the center of the neighborhood. The advantage of this provocation is that, in contrast to the previous move – which was into an area already housing dozens of Jewish families – there were only a handful of Jews in the center of Silwan, allowing the new settlers to poke their fingers even more deeply in the eyes of local residents.

As in the previous case, this move was totally legal. The settlers had purchased the buildings – one with room for five families, the other with room for four – through foreign companies, behind which stood the Committee for the Renewal of the Yemenite Village in Shiloah (Silwan). To enrich the provocation with proper Zionist content, a story is told of a community of Jews from Yemen who had settled the area before the First Aliyah and were forced to abandon their homes due to Arab rioting. Sunday night’s move supposedly “brought the site full circle.”

As Elad’s initiative, this provocation was also made possible by the government’s nationalist motivation. In fact, only when the court intervenes – as in the decision to void an agreement to transfer management of the Temple Mount’s southern wall area to Elad – the nonprofits that specialize in igniting political fires are forced into a tactical retreat, but only until the next attack.

However, Elad’s successes are the state’s failures. The more dominant this provocative nonprofit association becomes, the fewer the chances of ever living a normal life in Israel. The tragedy is liable to be one of historic dimensions.