Certain wars burn slowly. With the exception of the two Intifada periods, the war between Palestinians and Israelis is a slow burning coal. Following up its individual battles is difficult. Yet, the accumulation of events leaves no doubt regarding where the center of the war is. Mateh Binyamin Regional Council is regularly mentioned in this website, last time being just the day before yesterday in France Fortifies Israeli Settlements. Shiloh, Migron, Eli and other spots within the council are comets ablaze in the Middle Eastern skies. Located north of Jerusalem, it controls a key area for the development of an alternate road connecting Jerusalem with Tel Aviv. Nowadays, Israel’s two main cities are connected by a narrow corridor along Highway #1. This is the country’s jugular vein; between Latrun and Shaar HaGay (“Gate of the Narrow Valley” in Hebrew) the valley along which the highway passes is barely wider than the dark asphalt darkening it. In
Reviving Burma Road I expanded on a new railway planned to open in a few years, which will be able to deliver troops and weapons to a Jerusalem under siege when the time comes; a tunnel crossing the narrowest point of the path will ensure that the new route is more defensible than Highway #1. Traumatized by the 1948 isolation of Jerusalem, Israel is trying to solve this problem in other ways as well. For years now, a second highway is being painfully built; it is known as Route 443, which links north Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements with the city of Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut and Tel Aviv. It links with Road 60, which crosses areas under jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. If Israel fails to annex this regional council, then it will for sure fail with the rest of the West Bank; a large Jerusalem would probably have annexed its eastern part, but it would be like an isolated bastion as it was before 1967. Today, August 12, 2012, one of this battle’s incidents reached the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit Patch
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In recent weeks there were repeated confrontations between Palestinians from Sinjil, who attempted to visit their lands, and settlers from Givat Harel, who prevented them from doing so. The IDF and the Cross Road became involved in the incidents. Apparently there were no serious damages in any of the incidents. In the map shown below, Sinjil can be seen at the bottom of the map, marked as an orange village. Slightly north of it are three settlements, Eli, Shiloh, and Ma’ale Lebonah, which are marked in blue. These settlements are known as the Shiloh-Eli bloc and are intended by Israel to become a single urban area. In a hill between Eli and Shiloh there are a few caravans which form the outpost known as Givat Harel; it controls access to lands owned by people from Sinjil.
Due to the constant and serious violence in the West Bank, the abovementioned incidents were unlikely to be noticed even by the local media. Yet, this time the IDF Civil Administration made a serious mistake, which was immediately used by far-right Knesset Members.
What happened here was not supposed to happen in a random protest. The problem was that these events became part of a ritual taking place on Fridays. After a while, the IDF tried to soften the violence. The Civil Administration decided to walk with the Palestinian landowners and physically separate them from the settlers blocking the way. The settlers complained to their representatives at the Knesset, saying that the IDF was defending Palestinians. I will refrain from quoting the insulting remarks, but they are easy to guess. The Civil Administration is the Israeli government organization ruling the West Bank. Established in 1981, it carries out the daily bureaucratic functions within the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. It is part of a larger entity known as Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit in the Defense Ministry of Israel. In other words, they look like soldiers, but in fact are Ministry of Defense administrators. In this case, they cared little about what was going on. They didn’t even check who owned the land. This is a critical point; Associated Press discovered in 2008, that Abd Allatif Hassan Sumarin, who supposedly sold a plot of land to Binyamin Regional Council owned Al Wattan Ltd in 2004, had been dead since 1961. Yet, the IDF couldn’t tell the Knesset who the owner was in this case. The Knesset members who took care to catapult the topic into international news were Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, both members of the National Union, a party that is more right wing than Netanyahu’s Likud. Earlier this year, Michael Ben Ari was denied a visa to the USA because of his membership in a Jewish terror organization (Kach); recently he also became notorious for an anti-Christian hate-crime when he destroyed a New Testament in his Knesset office.
Until now, these protests amounted to very little. This is when a major mistake took place. In its indefatigable attempts to create quiet instead of justice, the Civil Administration asked for external help in the solution of the problem. It asked the International Red Cross to mediate between the sides. Eventually, also the international organization failed. Settlers and their Knesset representatives went ballistic on this; the topic reached Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the parliamentary body responsible for the conduct of the Ministry of Defense. The result was a brutal answer from the Knesset’s most important committee. It requested the Civil Administration and the Foreign Affairs Ministry to explain why the International Red Cross was involved. Almost for sure, somebody in the Civil Administration will pay with his career for this, after all it equals to a formal recognition by Israel that it lacks sovereignty in the area. The Foreign Affairs Ministry found itself involved in a battle that belongs to somebody else. Then, the Knesset committee requested to stop immediately the visits of Palestinians to their lands. A comet ablaze in the Middle Eastern skies may crash next weekend, when the owners will try—almost for sure—to access their lands.