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The Cross of Bethlehem

The Cross of Bethlehem II

Netanyahu, Snow White, and Ulpana

 

 

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“Benjamin Netanyahu is Snow White!” President Obama can say now to the CNN. “Israel is as innocent as Bambi” will Queen Elizabeth II tell the BBC. “Netanyahu is Hansel; Israel is Gretel” Angela Merkel will join them shortly after. In the second week of June 2012, the Ulpana Affair has reached a new peak with Netanyahu’s government accepting the Supreme Court decision to demolish the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El, and settlers staging a rather violent protest at the entrance of the Benjamin Regional Brigade. Yet, a close look at this dramatic play discloses that it was just a fairy tale enacted by skilled actors; Netanyahu is not Snow White, and Ulpana is not Bambi. In May, I commented on the Israel Supreme Court decision to demolish Ulpana (see “Juden Raus!” says Israel); near the article’s end, I wrote: “Netanyahu wants to do that again, by legislating a law that will transform the illegal purchase of land in Beit El into a legal purchase, rendering obsolete the court decision.” Accordingly, last week, the proposed bill was rejected by the Knesset, and the final countdown has begun; by July 1 the settlers’ houses in Ulpana will be destroyed by the IDF.

Snow White by Franz Jüttner

Snow White by Franz Jüttner

 

Act I: Ulpana

 

Settlers protesting at Benjamin Regional Brigade Gate, June 8, 2012

Settlers protesting at Benjamin Regional Brigade Gate
Friday, June 8, 2012

At first, Beit El looks similar to any other settlement in the West Bank; it mimics the archetypal American suburb. There is no link to local architecture, not even to an Israeli one. Most settlers are American-Jews, they speak heavily accented Hebrew. Beit El is a religiously observant Jewish town located next to a large Palestinian city (al-Bireh), and belonging to the extremist Mateh Binyamin Regional Council (see Mattot Arim and the Jewish Extremists Clockwork). Two of its statistics draw immediate attention. It was founded in 1977, meaning it is one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Then, it has a population of over 1,200 families; it is the closest thing the settlements have to a megacity. Checking a bit deeper, one finds that this is a key settlement in the Religious Zionist Movement. The State of Israel wouldn’t have been possible without an alliance between the secular Zionists and the religious Haredim (see Netanyahu’s Mule: On an Unholy Alliance); the result is what outside Israel is known as the Religious Zionist Movement, and in Israel it is generalized as “kippot srugot,” the “hand-woven kippas”, after the distinctively hand-woven head covers used by its men.

Beit El is home to various prominent persons. Rabbi Binyamin “Benny” Elon is a former member of the Knesset for the Moledet party and lives in Beit El. His father Menachem Elon was the former Deputy Chief Justice of Israel, and his brother Rabbi Mordechai Elon, is a prominent figure in the Religious Zionist Movement. His wife, Emuna, is an author and journalist who spent a significant period of her life in New York; this is a reminder that most settlers in the West Bank are American Jews. Also living in Beit El is Ya’akov Dov “Katzele” Katz, the leader of the National Union party. Beyond being a Knesset legislator, he is also the Executive Director of Beit El Yeshiva Center Institutions and Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio which operates out of studios in Beit El and Petah Tikva. This shortlist is enough to convince anyone that Beit El is not Migron; it cannot be moved to the nearest hill in the middle of the night. It is linked directly to the parliament, the government, and the media; indirectly, it is linked also to the Supreme Court.

The Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El was established in 1999 on lands that belong to people from the nearby Dura al-Qar village. In a lawsuit before the High Court of Israel, the state notified the court that the company developing the Ulpana neighborhood, Gush Emunim’s Amana Company, was aware that the seller of the land, a 7-year old Palestinian child, was not its legal owner at the time. Therefore, even the State of Israel defines Ulpana as illegitimate, thus the eviction order issued on May 7, 2012, by the High Court of Justice. Supreme Court President Asher Grunis along with Justice Uzi Fogelman and Justice Salim Joubran rejected an appeal from the state requesting it to reconsider its earlier ruling to evacuate the Ulpana neighborhood, despite the fact that the state itself recognized the unlawfulness. The State of Israel led a legal battle in its courts against its own laws, and lost.

 

Act II: Knesset

 

Benjamin Netanyahu is not one to get scared by a court decision. His party—the Likud—is the father of the West Bank settlements. One of its historical slogans was: “Two banks to the Jordan River; this one is ours, the other one also.” Netanyahu cannot stain his name by doing anything that will look like a demolition of Beit El. He tried to bypass the court decision by what became known as the “Regulation Bill,” a law whitewashing illegitimate purchased land in the West Bank. Even by Israeli lousy standards regarding the rule of law, such a bill couldn’t be accepted; it would have been cancelled at the first opportunity by the Supreme Court. Netanyahu realized that, but his show must go on; hence he went through the required parliamentary motions; while at the last moment, he forced his Likud soldiers to vote against it.

Last Wednesday, 69 members of Knesset voted against the bill, while 22 voted for it. This means the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El must be demolished by July 1. Netanyahu supported the High Court ruling against… himself, after all Netanyahu openly supports the Ulpana neighborhood. Only a bright mind like Netanyahu’s can follow this type of logic. It was too much even for the settlers.

 

Act III: Black Friday

 

The IDF ground-forces work in a matrix-like structure. There is a backbone of regional brigades, which oversee an area; they include only headquarters and skeletal functions. They are populated by battalions—either from the regular or the reserve forces—which arrive for short stays, usually of just a month. By definition, regional brigades have access to large amounts of land; Beit El was partially built on land that was expropriated years before by the IDF in order to create the Benjamin Regional Brigade.

Two days after the Regulation Bill failed to be legislated by the Knesset, the settlers ran to the gate of the adjacent brigade and stage a violent protest. Their choice was good. Regional brigades are central junctions; journalists can be expected to be nearby. Subsequently, the Hebrew media overflowed with pictures of settlers and IDF soldiers confronting each other. This was good for the settlers and for Netanyahu. Following this act, Netanyahu is able to claim that he must take care not to begin a civil war between Jewish brothers. He must solve the Ulpana problem despite the court decision.

 

Act IV: A Proper Zionist Answer

 

Netanyahu gave a “Proper Zionist Answer,” (“tshuva tzionit olemet” in Hebrew). This is a popular phrase used in Israel against any event that is perceived as a threat to the tribe. It implies violence, though nothing specific is said. He decided that the homes will not be destroyed, but rather will be moved to a military area within Beit El. He announced also the construction of additional 300 homes in Beit El, 117 in Ariel, 92 in Ma’ale Adumim, 144 in Adam, and 84 in Kiryat Arba. Overall, this is many times the number of Ulpana houses to be moved; Netanyahu can claim a political victory.

Technically, this will solve the issue of the land ownership. However, all Jewish settlements are self-imposed jails. They are surrounded by heavy fences and have a gate with an armed guard. Palestinian land owners will be denied access, even after the Supreme Court decision is obeyed by the Israeli government. Even the Supreme Court was aware of this. The entire event was nothing but a staged fairy tale; even at the court level.

A few months ago, I commented in Israel Camouflages Jerusalem on a similar event, where a National Park was declared upon lands confiscated from Palestinians. Jerusalem’s city council member, Meir Margalit said on this issue: “This national park is a farce. There’s nothing there but rocks and thorns, certainly nothing to justify a national park. The only reason for such a plan is to seize lands and hold them as a reserve for a future settlement, while suffocating the Palestinian neighborhoods.” The same is happening now in Ulpana. The evacuated land would be turned into a park, or a monument or a secret military base, and will wait patiently until people forget the entire affair. On that day, Uncle Obama will gladly pay for his settler citizens’ new homes.

Netanyahu’s Fairy Tales

Netanyahu’s Fairy Tales

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