Who is Fooling Whom?
By Michael Fuah
Michael Fuah is the Research Director of Manhigut Yehudit
Everybody knows about the deal: Terrorist release in exchange for construction permits in Judea and Samaria. Privy to the deal are the US, PLO, Lapid, Bennett-Ariel and the Likud MKs. Every actor plays his part. The US expresses its concern over the building permits but ultimately “accepts” them. The PLO pretends that the permits will torpedo the negotiations. Bennett, Ariel and their Jewish Home party, along with the rightist wing of the Likud vote against the terrorist release, but don’t really break out of the matrix. They vote in favor the government budget (votes against the budget could have brought the government down) in exchange for a promise of construction permits in Judea and Samaria, all the while releasing trite clichés condemning the immoral deal. They reap support and good will for their impassioned speeches. In short, the actors are all talented and on the surface, everybody wins.
The truth, though, is that the big losers are the citizens of the State of Israel. The terrorist release is not just another tactical measure, the outcome of which will be calculated according to how many Jews were murdered by the newly released prisoners. The terrorist release, with the approval of the entire National Camp, is a strategic terror strike against the right of the State of Israel to exist.
Israel’s National Camp has always excelled at tactical measures – and failed at strategy. The National Camp created facts on the ground in Yamit and the Sinai, Gush Katif and of course, in Judea and Samaria. But it is the Left that determines the agenda. Thus, when the moment of truth arrived in Yamit, Sinai and Gush Katif, all the tactical success made no difference. Everything was destroyed. Clearly, the sheer size and power of the tactical success of the Right in Judea and Samaria became a strategic problem for the Left; but not an insolvable problem.
PM Netanyahu’s goal is to remove most of the Jewish towns and villages in Judea and Samaria and to reach an arrangement that he calls “Two States for Two Peoples”. Netanyahu is not simply making this declaration for foreign ears while relying on the Arabs to torpedo his proposal; it is a goal toward which the PM has been working for years. Even when Netanyahu was still in the Opposition, he attempted to recruit me, personally, along with other influential Likud leaders to support this proposal. With the deal for terrorist release in exchange for building permits, the PM succeeded in acquiring the Right’s approval for both terrorist release and negotiations that have only one goal: the continuation of the Oslo process.
If this step is immoral, according to Minister Elkin, and if the values system of Minister Bennett dictates zero compromise in the face of terror, why didn’t the heads of the Land Of Israel Knesset Lobby – MKs Yariv Levin and Orit Struck , Jewish Home party heads Ministers Bennett and Ariel and the coalition partners from the National Camp leverage their political power and threaten to vote against the budget to prevent this catastrophe?
Before the Expulsion from Gush Katif, Sharon used the National Camp to pass the budget. Afterwards, he threw the Right to the wayside and bulldozed his Expulsion plan through the Knesset with the support of the Left. Hasn’t the lesson been learned? The ministers and MKs, aware of the power in their hands, refused to use it. Some of them even explained that their refusal was because of the promised construction permits.
The Community Council and Action Committee heads who protested the terrorist release did not demand that their Knesset representative leverage their political power in the vote on the budget, which took place just two days after the government decision to release terrorists. Clearly, if there had been even five Coalition members who had refused to vote in favor of the budget, the decision to release terrorists would have been nullified. Drawing a red line on the terrorist release and exacting the price in the budget vote would have been understood and clear to the general public. Labor party’s Shelly Yehimovitz and her friends would not have been able to provide the government with a safety net for the budget just to make the terrorist release possible. But the Prime Minister, in coordination with the US and Abu Mazen knew that the Right could be bought with building permits, and he was correct.
Beyond the moral question raised by the release of murderers in exchange for additional buildings and beyond the dubious “benefits” of the deal, there is a very basic issue in question here: The release of terrorists is recognition in principle that these murderers are actually freedom fighters in a just war. This new release is not even similar to the irresponsible release of prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit. That was surrender, not recognition of the importance of their struggle.
This ‘deal’, in which the National Camp agrees to the terrorist release in exchange for construction, so as to facilitate the opening of negotiations from an inferior position – may turn out to be the moment at which the fate of some of the towns and villages of Judea and Samaria was sealed: For expulsion, or perhaps even worse, unilateral abandonment. It seems that the Kfar Maimon paradigm, in which the heads of the National Camp dizzy the public with futile gimmicks while secretly collaborating with the destruction masterminds, is repeating itself. I have no doubt that the MKs and public figures mean well and are certain that the added construction will stop the next expulsion or abandonment. But in this game, in which everyone is deceiving everyone, the winner is the person who leads; not those being led.
Minister Uri Ariel, who boasted about more buildings in Judea and Samaria on the day of the terrorist release, is playing directly into the hands of the PM and the Left. When the terror attacks intensify, the Left will blame the Right for the terrorist release and the murder of Israeli citizens. “You preferred the terrorist release to a building moratorium,” the Left, as usual, will point its blaming finger at us.
The only person who held a mirror up to the display of hypocrisy is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, MK Moshe Feiglin. He announced that if the government would approve the terrorist release, he would vote against the budget – and he did. If another three or four MKs would have joined him, if community council heads and Judea and Samaria Action Committees would have joined in the pressure that Manhigut Yehudit was applying – instead of agreeing to the ‘deal’ – the terrorist release would not have happened. But everyone remained silent because the deal was struck with everyone ahead of time and continued construction, in their eyes, is the supreme value. At this point, the score is 1:0 for Netanyahu, Obama and Abu Mazen.
The struggle is not over. If we continue to sign petitions against the terrorist release while allowing the negotiations to progress until Netanyahu will no longer need the National Camp and will be able to announce an historic move with the support of the Left, then what happened in Yamit and Gush Katif will happen in Judea and Samaria. The way to deal with the process that is already working against us is to dictate a new agenda: a social agenda and a diplomatic agenda.
The social agenda must feature the true hardships experienced by all Israelis, particularly the high price of housing and construction, which continue to rise. The public must know – now – that the solution to the housing crisis in central Israel lies in the foothills of Judea and Samaria. The public must internalize – now – that every expulsion or abandonment of residents of Judea and Samaria will bring the victims into the housing market and will intensify the crisis. We must make the facts public and create action committees to spark a just public outcry. Lowering the cost of housing is an issue that resounds with large segments of the population. If the public understands that the diplomatic process will generate an additional rise in housing prices, the process will be destabilized.
On the diplomatic front, we must stop our attempts at halting the process; they are always too late. Instead, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount must be at the forefront of our struggle. They are the cornerstone of every negotiation process. The last few months have seen a secret, creeping transfer of sovereignty on the Temple Mount to Jordan, despite the fact that it is against the law. The PM is attempting to circumvent the question of Jerusalem in general, and the Temple Mount, in particular, by dividing Jerusalem and giving up sovereignty on the Mount in practice. His goal is to reach an all-inclusive agreement in which these issues will already have been determined by the facts on the ground. The agreements will simply reflect the situation and will not require any additional retreats.
An uncompromising public struggle on Jerusalem, led by the National Camp, can do more than ameliorate the dangers of the negotiations. It can restore the State of Israel to its sense of justice and improve its international standing. Today’s situation, in which the State’s basic laws are being trampled upon in the very place that is the bedrock of our existence – is untenable.
We need thousands of Jews to ascend the Temple Mount and demand freedom of movement and worship. Not only will this change the situation on the Mount; it will change our entire diplomatic situation. Ministers and MKs must uncompromisingly demand the sovereignty of the Knesset on the Temple Mount. They will dictate a new agenda that Abu Mazen will not be able to sustain.
Initially, we will be portrayed as crazies attempting to ignite World War III. But if we persevere, those threats will dissipate, just as all the states surrounding us are melting away. Our connection to our historical destiny, to build a center for prayer and sanctity in the holiest place on earth will restore the legitimacy and international recognition that we are rapidly losing since we declared that we are robbers and conquerors.
I hope and pray that this time, there will be enough community activists in the National Camp who will rise to the moment and will act with a broad perception of the situation. We need people who are motivated by a sense of mission and leadership. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and to the historical mission now on our shoulders.