• Leftist Journey to the “Occupied Territories”

    by  • June 14, 2012 • In the Press • 0 Comments

    The conclusion, which was becoming clearer and clearer (even to the point of frustration) the more we traveled and probed the vastness of the Shomron: Evacuation is no longer a solution. And there are more conclusions and insights by a veteran Leftist who went on a tour of historic sites and human landscapes in the “occupied territories”.
    by Arnon Lapid Y-Net, “Kibbutz”, 5/6/12 (Translated from Hebrew)

    A task that seemed challenging, let alone loony, let alone daring: A veteran Leftist (although “softer” and more realistic than before) – that’s me – goes on a get-acquainted trip to the Shomron (where I haven’t set foot since 2006, when I was a shocked witness to what was happening at the Richan-Barta’a checkpoint), having been invited and guided by a candidate (no. 34) for the Likud list, a member of “Jewish Leadership” (Feiglin), resident of Kiryat Arba, one Boaz Haetzni, son of Elyakim Haetzni, a brilliant intellectual and commentator.

    Really, why did you invite me?

    Boaz Haetzni: “Relax, it’s not just you. We started up the guided tours right before the last elections, actually with the candidates on the Right, when it became clear to us that not many of them really saw or were familiar with what they believe in and are fighting for. They had the right instincts in the first place, but the visit fired them up and made them feel even more committed. After the elections, we started inviting journalists and people from the academic world, too, mainly from the Left, for the purpose of causing a shift in their consciousness, but also to drain off the mutual resentment. There were those who refused outright, mainly from the Left, or evaded the issue with all kinds of excuses, but most of them accepted.”

    Did you raise their consciousness?

    “The responses were fascinating. The ones who are in favor of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria in the first place, came out of the tour all excited. Whoever opposes it, or hates it, came out of it with less opposition and less hatred. I heard things from prominent figures on the Left that I have never heard from Right-wingers, like: ‘What the hell are all of these Arabs doing here?’. There were also those who cursed them with words that can’t be printed.”

    Do you understand what the Arabs are doing here?

    “I, too, would have wanted for them not to be here – and I don’t hate them or fear them – but the reality is that both we and they are here, and we have to live with this fact of life. Dreams and fantasies are nonsense.”

    “To work for Jews, that’s peace-and-quiet for them”

    The slideshow and introductory words that Boaz presented to his lone listener at the Shomron Regional Council hinted at the conclusion that was gradually being formed (to the point of frustration), the more we traveled and probed the vastness of the Shomron: Evacuation is no longer a solution! This part of the country, and I mean only the Shomron, with a population of 85,000 young Jews (55% of them secular), half of them being children and youth under the age of 18, and only 2% over the age of 65, and which is growing steadily at the rate of 4% – 10% annually, and which operates 300 institutions of education – this region cannot be evacuated.

    The most surprising thing – according to my hosts, it’s doubtful that the entire Palestinian population looks forward to such an evacuation: Approximately 15,000 of them are employed in factories in the Barkan industrial zone and elsewhere, each of them supporting a family of 10 on the average, at a salary several times higher than what they would make working within the Palestinian Authority. “To work for the Jews”, Boaz says, “that’s peace and quiet for them. So the employment boycott Fayyad declared against working for Jewish businesses is almost a total failure.”
    A five-minute trip, and then we’re in the communal (and secular) settlement of Barkan. Boaz points towards the west to make the point – superfluous to make, even to Leftists – how close the cities of Gush Dan are, and how slender Israel’s waist is.

    “Giving away territory is giving away our national identity”

    The route is magnificent and fascinating, both historically and personally, and Boaz maps it out for his fellow traveler: From Barkan, we continue to Nofim to view the Nachal Kana Reserve. On Road 55 (Shechem-Kfar Saba-Kalkilya) we pass Kedumim and the Gilad Farm. At the eastern end of the road, which is named after Gilad Zar, we continue and link up with the Way of the Patriarchs, Road 60, the road going along the length of the mountain ridge. And onward, north to Shechem, and at the foot of Mt. Gerizim we turn east to Elon Moreh. There, at the Mt. Kabir lookout point, exposed to the burning sun, Benny Katzover awaits us.

    He was, as we know, one of the participants at the historic Passover Seder in ’68 at the Park Hotel in Hebron, one of the founders of Elon Moreh, who after a few transformations, finally settled in the present Elon Moreh. He served as the head of the Shomron Regional Council; he is currently a member of the “National Union” and serves as the chairman of the Shomron Residents’ Council.

    Katzover, whose speech is soft and whose smile is warm, isn’t my kind of guy. His perceptions and beliefs (from his previous words: “Western Humanism is an idolatrous religion, an alternative to Judaism… Israeli Democracy has one main task – to disappear from the field and bend its will to Judaism…”) are the very essence of my fearsand my aversion to the fanatics among the settlers. But when he eloquently and knowledgeably describes the view that spans the foot of the mountain – Shechem, Joseph’s Tomb, towards the sunrising – and gives the Arab name for every mountain, ridge, village, valley and river, and with each of these names, the corresponding Biblical name, and points out the Biblical associations, it’s impossible not to at least agree that the Jewish people are the preferred shareholders.

    Before I give my thanks and depart, I ask Katzover how he sees the solution to the situation. “Our campaign is at its pinnacle”, he answers. “When the Jewish people stop calling the heart of our homeland into question, there is a chance that the Palestinians, too, will come to terms with this reality, and then the rest of the world will, too.” It’s hard for me to extract any condemnation from this, or even resentment against the “Hilltop Youth” and their “Price Tag” operations.

    Boaz again takes the wheel, I again swallow up the scenery and pull up some questions from the supply of them that I prepared in advance.

    The Arabs of Judea and Samaria don’t deserve a state of their own?

    “What don’t the Arabs of Judea and Samaria have at the moment, and that is forbidden for them to ever have? No control over the external borders, no ability to forge alliances with other countries, no control over the air space, electromagnetic field, or the general water policy. What will happen if we do give them all of this? We’ll meet Al Qaida, Hizbollah and the Revolutionary Guards right next to Kfar Saba, Petach Tikva, Afula, Netanya, Hadera, Jerusalem and Beersheba. Judea and Samaria will turn into fortified, Lebanon-style “reserves”, with a complete rocket-launching system, this time at the center of the country.

    “From my point of view, this unequivocal security picture is a byproduct of the main thing – that this country is ours, and Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem are the heart of our heritage, religion and culture, most essential for us. Giving up any of this land means giving up our national identity, i.e., no less than having a signpost informing everyone that we’ve lost, at the end of a long process, the will to exist as a nation. Therefore, from both a national and a security viewpoint, and also for reasons of historic justice, it is inconceivable to establish another Arab state for a fictitious people between the Jordan River and the sea.”

    “The solution is the problem”

    The journey is over, we are on the way back. We soon enter Ariel, all the questions I prepared in advance have already been asked and answered. This is what I asked at the end:

    Then how do you see the solution to the situation?

    Boaz Haetzni: “Before the solution, it doesn’t hurt to characterize the problem. In Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem live about 1.8 million Arabs, and about 200,000 of them have received Israeli residency permits. Possibility A is to concede the area and leave them to their fate, with or without an agreement, and so give up responsibility for them. As in many cases in life, this is an example of how one solution to a problem is liable to create problems that are many times more serious.

    “Giving away the mountain ridges in the heart of the country, whence control over Israeli population centers, the economy, traffic and strategic installations can be transferred to the Arabs who have never abandoned their quest to destroy us, would endanger the physical existence of the State. Additionally, the economic and social price of uprooting close to 400,000 residents of Judea and Samaria is in itself impossible. Therefore, this option no longer exists. From here we see that there is no option to give up the territory.

    “The next option is to give the Arabs of Judea and Samaria citizenship or residency, like in Jerusalem. This is also unacceptable, because it’s clear that by doing this we give up the Jewish identity of the State, and this is definitely not what we intended when we established the State. The fact that Israelis from the Left have decided amongst themselves that it would be right to carry out a deal whereby we give up the ’67 lines and the Arabs, the ’48 lines, does not obligate the Arabs, and the time has come for us to tell ourselves this truth.

    “Another statistical fact deserving our attention is that every time we have come close to signing an agreement, the Arabs either reneged or started a war, or both. Two famous cases are the decision of the UN Assembly to establish the State in 1947, which proposed to divide up the country within borders that were terrible from Israel’s viewpoint. The Arabs didn’t accept the proposal and started a war.

    “The second time was in the year 2000 after the Camp David failure, where Barak even agreed to divide up ancient Jerusalem. At that time, too, the Arabs rejected a generous offer and started a war. Why? Because this is the way they escaped signing any permanent agreement. A signature, i.e., agreeing by their own freewill to give up land that is sacred to them, is out of the question, and that stems from their deepest religious and cultural rationales.
    “From here we come to a surprising conclusion: The solution is the problem, i.e., the closer we get to signing a permanent agreement, the closer we get to an explosion. We need to learn this fact well. This misunderstanding has cost us dearly so far. The third possibility is not to give up land, not to give citizenship but autonomy to the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, under Israeli control, applicable within the external parameters declared previously. This possibility is also far from being ideal, but its disadvantages are much less than those of the other options, plus it presents no existential danger to us.”

    So what did the tour do for you? friends asked me urgently. Well, it certainly has not made things any easier for me. I continue to oppose the situation (that Boaz Haetzni refuses to call “occupation”) where we Jews are the masters and the Palestinians (whom Boaz insists on calling “Arabs”), the subjects; It’s not our historical connection to the Shomron, which cannot be denied, that makes it difficult for me to side with evacuation to make way for a Palestinian state, but the sense of real danger to our security as well as my suspicions of the Palestinians, who themselves are not doing anything to dispel them. A desperate situation: I can’t even wait for G-d to emerge from all these machinations, because I don’t believe in G-d. I need to sleep on it some more….

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