Israel Won't Let Gaza Boy See His Only Parent

Why is the Defense Ministry barring the passage of a Gaza boy whose widowed father lives in Hebron?

In protest over the complaint the United States dared to lodge against Israel over the plight of Gaza Strip residents, the Defense Ministry declared there is no humanitarian crisis there, nor did one ever exist.

According to the ministry's criteria for humanitarian cases, our American friends got a little carried away. For example, is the case of a 7-year-old Gazan who lost his mother and wants to rejoin his father, who lives in Hebron, to be considered a humanitarian case by the Defense Ministry? That's not a sure thing.

The procedures of the office of the coordinator of activities in the territories for handling requests from Gaza Strip residents seeking to settle in Judea and Samaria stipulates that if there is a relative in the vicinity who can take him in, the boy should remain in Gaza. And what of a chronically ill or elderly person in need of assistance and whose only daughter unfortunately chose to live in Nablus? Is he to be considered a humanitarian case? Nonsense.

According to the rules for family reunification, dictated by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai (Labor), they will apply to the man only if there is no other relative in Gaza, not necessarily a first-degree relative, who can care for him. "Family ties, in and of itself, are not reason enough to justify a humanitarian case allowing residency in Judea and Samaria." Of course, when necessary, he writes, the petitioners will be summoned to an interview with officials from the office of the coordinator of activities in the territories' to reassess the humanitarian need.

But this is a humanitarian case.

Please note, there is no attempt here, perish the thought, to realize the right of return to Israel. The only thing these unfortunate people want is to move to another part of the occupied territories. The Gisha association and the Center for the Defense of the Individual, which appealed to the High Court of Justice over the matter, noted that according to the Defense Ministry rules, it is easier for a foreign citizen living in the West Bank to obtain the status of a resident of the territories than it is for a Palestinian from Gaza to move to the West Bank.

Israeli human rights activists say the procedures reflect a broad policy of encouraging Palestinians to move to Gaza, to permanently distance them from the West Bank. Families that cannot reunite in the West Bank must move to the Gaza Strip, even if their homes, livelihoods and family and social ties are in the West Bank. The new procedure contradicts a series of international, diplomatic commitments made by Israel, including a specific commitment in the Oslo Accords to maintain the status of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as "a single territorial unit." The interim agreement also stipulates that the Palestinians are entitled to choose their place of residence in the territories.

Plenty of room for growth in settlements

National leaders from President Shimon Peres to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are crying foul against U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who are dismantling families of Jews, of course, in the West Bank.

Habayit Hayehudi leader Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz went as far as comparing the American refusal to allow building in the settlements for the needs of "natural growth" to the plague of the firstborn. Then the right-wing paper Makor Rishon reported from a first-hand source that not only is there no shortage of apartments for the firstborn and for the youngest children, there is also room enough for unnatural growth.

In his weekly column, Hagai Segal, a rabbi of the settlers and a veteran of the Jewish underground, urges residents of Ra'anana to vote with their feet against the leftist solution as it appeared in Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan speech. "If someone in Ra'anana is wondering what he can do now to save Israel from a Palestinian state, let him move to Judea and Samaria," writes Segal and elaborates: "It won't be so simple, because Netanyahu and Barak are not going to sign building permits in wholesale quantities, but in almost every veteran community there is still an unused reservoir."

Segal calls for energy to be invested "not in outposts that are there just to make a statement, and not in anti-Netanyahu presentations, but only in quiet and quick growth."

It is unclear whether Segal is correct in his assessment of Barak's attitude on building permits. And not just in the "legal" settlements; the minister of defense (Labor) is also investing energy in the outposts that are there to make a statement. Activists for Bamakom association, which works for justice and human rights in planning and knows a thing or two about the situation in the territories, have discovered that Barak recently authorized the Civil Administration to submit a plan for the construction of 300 housing units in the unauthorized outpost of Givat Habrecha, near the community of Talmon. The new construction is located around 13 kilometers east of the Green Line, on the "Palestinian" side of the separation barrier. According to the Sasson Report, this outpost was built without government approval and without a master plan and damaged private Palestinian property.

The objections submitted by Bimkom (with the Al-Ghaniya village council) say the planned construction is on lands formerly declared "state lands" and the plan apparently is a bid to whitewash the illegal construction of 60 housing units that have already been put up and to allow the construction of another 240 housing units, public buildings and roads.

Bimkom argues that adjacent to the area of the plan on the ground, which even according to the Civil Administration is private Palestinian land, several permanent structures were put up by the residents. So far there have been wide-scale building violations at Givat Habrecha, including the paving of roads and the building of public structures and residential buildings - all without permits and contrary to the master plan defining the area as agricultural. In its objection to the plan the association argues that approving the construction would be tantamount to blessing the start of unmonitored construction in unauthorized outposts.