In these tough times, I will start with the heavy news before moving on to what is good.
The residents of Amona have decided not to take the final offer that was made to them by the government. The basic outlines of that offer:
They would have had to leave their homes by December 25th, or by a future date – roughly one month after – which the High Court would set if it agreed to the government’s request to delay the expulsion, a request that would be made after the residents had agreed to the plan.
The government then would immediately have begun work on homes in a nearby area of the mountain the residents are currently on, and would have given the residents permits to live there for two years. This land is “absentee property” land, whose owners have not recognized it or paid taxes on it for decades.
During that two year period, the government would have turned to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court, and requested that the absentee owners’ names be removed from the property. If the court granted this request, then it would have been possible for the Amona residents to remain there permanently.
I myself saw the problem with this plan: too many ‘ifs.” IF the High Court extended the expulsion date by a month. But the residents would have to agree before they knew if this would be the case. And if the High Court refused? Where would they go while houses were being put up? And then, after two years, they would have permanent homes IF the Jerusalem Magistrate Court agreed to remove the names of the absentee landowners. If it did not, the Amona residents would have to move elsewhere once again.
And this was the essence of what they said yesterday, at a press conference at the home of leader, Avichai Boaron:
Said Boaron, the document they were asked to sign did not contain written pledges from the government – those promises were oral. I would say that they couldn’t be written because the government could not promise how courts would rule. The government was saying, “we’ll seek, we’ll try.” (Emphasis below is added.)
“Unfortunately at the last moment we have been left alone…
“Nothing was written in the document except for a requirement on our part to leave our land willfully…
“we are experienced from previous expulsions. The arrangement was presented one way but the document we were asked to sign was very different.
“if the government cannot commit to transferring us from the door of our houses to the door of an alternative house, we will not be able to accept the arrangement.”
This is a sad ending to the situation, and so many of us wish it had been different, think it should have been different.
I do not have answers, but I wonder why the government didn’t pursue some of these issues earlier, so that it was not a last minute solution with all of those “ifs.” Jews who made their homes in Israel in good faith should not be treated as the residents of Amona are being treated.
This is especially so when in fact – never mind what media sources routinely say – only some 5% of the land Amona is on has documented Arab ownership and the claims of Arab ownership were brought to the Court by an NGO that has no standing in this case and receives a majority of their funds from foreign governments. This is not justice.
What I was glad to hear was that the residents are being called upon by their own leaders to act nonviolently, without raising a hand to police or soldiers (the police and soldiers who are, as I write, preparing for the expulsion, which may take place any time between now and December 25). And I pray that the residents heed this call.
However, there is also a call out to others to participate with them in “passive resistance,” and, truth be told, when you gather a large group of young people who are feeling aggrieved, the danger of violence grows. Violence would have no positive result and would work against the Jewish people.
I have no clarity as to where they will go after the expulsion, but will continue to watch this situation.
Not everyone agreed with the decision of the Amona residents. While they were meeting to make their decision, Rabbi Haim Druckman, a religious Zionist rabbi, said:
“Now is the moment of decision and there is no doubt that in many ways it is harsh since not everything was achieved and not all hopes were fulfilled.”
He called upon the residents to
“choose the straight and true path, to see the half-filled cup which is indeed fuller than expected even if the missing parts of it hurt for all of us. To accept the solution which our representatives in the government obtained for Amona even if it is not a complete solution…”
This statement, of course, is founded in trust that the government would fulfill the promises made. And here is the core of the anguish.
And MK Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), a tough and outspoken nationalist, after hearing of the decision of the residents, said;
“the decision ought to have been different, we thought that the community ought to have accepted the proposal, that it makes an opening for hope. But we honor the decision of Amona; the fear was that the High Court would delay the absentee property plan.”
We have our work cut out for us, and must fight hard on the diplomatic, legal and PR fronts, until we have justice for Jews in Israel.
For an example of the injustice, see here:
“At a time when all eyes are raised towards the future of Amona, the Regavim movement (which is dedicated to monitoring and taking legal action against construction without permits conducted by Arabs and Bedouins on state land) has submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against the Defense Ministry and the Civil Administration of neglecting for a decade to demolish an illegal Arab building which is on state land within the administrative borders of the town of Leshem [a town in the hills of Samaria].
“A number of months ago, the organization appealed to the Civil Administration to enforce the law against the buildings…
“The Civil Administration responded that the enforcement authorities are aware of the buildings and “they are being treated according to illegal construction directives.”
From an investigation by the Regavim movement, it became apparent that this directive was already applied to the buildings in 2008.
“…it is apparent that, in the last two years the trespassing on state land continued with land development and extension of existing buildings. Despite this, no sanctions had been taken against the place…”
“Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron regional council, said that ‘the discrimination against [Jewish] Judaean and Samarian residents had never been clearer. ‘” (Emphasis added]
Here’s some really good and welcome news:
According to the transition team, president-elect Trump will be nominating David Friedman, a staunch friend of Israel, as the new US Ambassador to Israel.
Said Friedman, an attorney, who served as Trump’s advisor on Israel during the campaign (emphasis added):
“I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
One more confirmation that Trump really does intend to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
Don’t know exactly how he thinks he can advance the cause of peace here, but I’m not terribly worried because of who he is. Friedman served as President of American Friends of Beit El (a community in the Shomron).
Prime Minister Netanyahu spent two days this week visiting Muslim majority countries in Asia. Tuesday, he flew to Azerbaijan, which is majority Shi’a, and met with President Ilham Heydar Aliyev. Netanyahu had visited this country, which is critical because it borders Iran, 20 years ago.
Here you see Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, meeting with members of the Jewish community of Azerbaijan, in Baku, the capital, at a Chabad school. Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) is on the far right:
During a press conference with Netanyahu, President Aliyev spoke about the fact that, over the years, his country had signed more than $5 billion in contracts to buy weapons and security equipment from Israel.
On Wednesday, he flew to Kazakhstan, a majority Sunni Muslim country, for an historic first-time meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In January, Kazakhstan assumes a two-year term on the Security Council as a rotating member. Our prime minister asked help from the president in securing Israel a rotating seat on the Council.
Nazarbayev, for his part, spoke about cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism; he requested Israel’s help in training its special forces.
Over half of Israel’s oil comes from these two countries, which are both members of the Organization of Islamic States.
All of this is part of Israel’s diplomatic outreach to different countries in the world, in an effort to solidify a stronger base of allies. We are less isolated today because many nations seek our expertise in fighting terror and our hi tech knowledge in many spheres.
In a speech before the Conservative Party’s Friends of Israel, on Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about Israel in glowing terms, saying that we are “a remarkable country” and “a beacon of tolerance.”
As it is the 100th year of the Balfour Declaration, which came out of Britain, she also touched upon this, calling the Declaration (emphasis added):
“one of the most important letters in history…It demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people. And it is an anniversary we will be marking with pride.”
This is lovely, and we appreciate it. There is a great deal more, as well, that she said in praise of Israel.
But, there is a proviso here. For Prime Minister May also said:
“We in Britain stand very firmly for a two-state solution.” And she spoke about “the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Sigh. One more Brit – this one a heartfelt friend of Israel – who is trying to have it both ways at the same time. The Balfour Declaration recognized all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea as Jewish homeland. The Mandate, established in international law, was based on the Declaration. There is no way to factor in a “two state solution” – which deprives Jews of a portion of the land. And yet, this is what happens, again and again.
“Al Kol Eleh“ written by Naomi Shemer z”l and sung here by Yossi Banai.
A fitting song for today – Watch over all of this, Almighty, the bitter and the sweet.