Settlers Are Addicted to Government Money

After Netanyahu bribed settlers with a few shekels, protests against the settlement freeze dissipated.

Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded. His decision to include dozens of isolated settlements in the national priority map, immediately after announcing the construction freeze in areas beyond the Green Line, has achieved its aim: The settler protest against the freeze dissipated.

Instead of demonstrating against "Bibi's White Paper," instead of shouting and ripping up orders in front of television cameras, the settlers are busy with more funding that they will receive from the "evil" government.

The prime minister kicked his ideology out of concern for a clash with the U.S. administration, and his move showed that the settlers are no different from him. They have once more proved to be government-support addicts. And like those addicted to drugs or cigarettes, the settlers are happy to set aside their beliefs and principles to get their fix.

The settlers love to describe themselves as pioneers, heroes who are mounting the hills of Samaria and Judea to settle ancient parts of the homeland and fight the Arabs surrounding them.

Their narrative links religious salvation, the Biblical story and Zionist history. The settlements are presented as the heritage of the ancient Kingdom of Judea and the tower and stockade settlements from the British Mandate period.

The government in Jerusalem, like the heroes from the Book of Kings, once did what the settlers consider right, but they sinned and now must be fought.

It is a nice myth, good for some festival, but in reality the settlements were not established by divine decree but merely by the hand of ministers and officials. They are not kept in place by divine power, but with state support.

This is the same state that gave them the legal basis, the land, the security and the funding. There is nothing holy in the decisions of ministerial committees which authorized the establishment of settlements, nor anything of the sort in the activities of various ministries and local authorities in developing the outposts.

The comparison to the pioneers of old is not an exaggeration. Since the days of the first immigrations, Jewish settlement in this country was planned, organized and supported from above.

Baron Rothschild backed the first settlements, and the Zionist movement followed him. The settlers of Tel Amal, Hanita and Migdal were not entrepreneurs, but rather emissaries of the movement following orders from its institutions.

Following the establishment of the state, the government initiated, planned and subsidized the settlement activity, and the same model was copied onto the territories conquered in 1967. Even during the first years of their activities, when the settlements supposedly forced themselves onto the government, like in Hebron or Sebastia, they were immediately granted recognition and benefits from the authorities.

The tragedy of the settlers stems from their sense that the deal they have made with the state is one-sided. That from the minute they climbed atop those hills, they cannot be made to return. But the state thinks differently; when it wills it, it will settle and coddle, and when it wishes, it will evacuate and destroy.

That is what it did in Sinai, in the Gaza Strip and in northern Samaria. The state granted the settlements the status of "national priority," until it turned its back on most of them and concentrated on the development of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the large settlement blocks. The result was that only a few are willing to live in the settlements beyond the separation fence, or even to visit there.

There is a minority among the settlers which opposes the life of dependency, rejects the authority of the state that destroyed Gush Katif, and threatens to refuse orders.

The extremists say that they would prefer to live in a Palestinian state if Israel pulls back from the hills. The Land of Israel is more important to them than a Zionist state.

But the majority is not like them. The elders of the settler tribe still hope that the wind will change its direction, and the state will resume granting "national priority" status to its emissaries outside the fence, directing hundreds of thousands of Jews who will bring an end to the idea of division, and will push the Arabs out.

At this time it does not look like it is going to happen. The isolated settlements will continue to suckle government support and exist on its handouts until they are evacuated.

The silence of the settlers, after Netanyahu bribed them with a few shekels, reflects the depth of their dependence on the state. And after they are evacuated, they will continue asking for help from the authorities: a permit for housing, assistance in finding a job, hooking up to the Internet. Just as happened to the settlers from Gush Katif. That is how it is when you are addicted.