I was so happy when Binyamin Netanyahu was first elected Prime Minister over a decade ago. “Finally we’ll have a strong but skillful politician heading our governemnt” I thought. I must give Netanyahu credit for being especially adept at navigating our country through the global financial crisis and keeping our ship of state not only afloat, but in a better position than it has ever been in its history. Similarly I must give credit to Netanyahu’s skillful diplomatic maneuvering as he developed relations with dozens of African and Asian countries, opening up huge trade and investment opportunities, and even ameliorating the automatic anti-Israel bias at the UN.
All this would make Bibi a brilliant Finance Minister (which he was under Ariel Sharon) and Foreign Minister or UN Ambassador – all jobs he has held with great success in the past.
But when it comes to governing, i.e. ruling in his own country, he has proven to be weak, indecisive and easily influenced by public opinion, leaving his principles far behind.
Let’s take Hebron for example: This week the government announced that the Jewish community in Hebron is finally receiving separate municipal standing. Up until now, the Jewish community had to receive its municipal services from the hostile Palestinian authorities, an absurd and anomalous situation.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman upgraded the municipal status of Hebron’s Jewish community, separating it from the Palestinian municipality, which governs the West Bank city.
The upgrade severs them from the Hebron municipality and allows them to independently seek services from the Civil Administration, which oversees civilian life in Area C of the West Bank.
The move was necessitated this year after the Palestinians in Hebron elected as their Mayor Sheikh Tayseer Abu Sneineh, who had been convicted and served time for his role in killing six Israelis in a terrorist attack.
“For years, Hebron’s Jewish residents lived without a municipal authority to take care of all the services required for normative civilian life,” said Deputy Defense Minister Eli Dahan (Bayit Yehudi). “After the election of a murderer for mayor of Hebron, the idea that they will receive these services from the municipality has become even more absurd.”
He added: “This is another important step in normalizing the lives of the Jews in Hebron, in particular, and in all of Judea and Samaria, in general.”
This is excellent news and has been a very long time – too long – in coming.
But – you knew there would be a but – once again the State has issued expulsion orders for Jewish families living in Bet HaMachpela in Hebron:
Fifteen settler families have seven days to vacate a three-story Hebron apartment building called Beit Hamachpela, which they illegally moved into, the state told the High Court of Justice on Sunday.
“The group of Israelis who entered the building in July have to evacuate it,” the state said.
At issue is a structure located across the parking lot from the Cave of the Patriarchs in a small area of the city that is under Israeli military control. Some 1,000 Jews live in that section of an otherwise Palestinian city of 220,000 people.
In 2012 the 15 families claimed to have purchased the building from the Abu Rajab family and moved into the structure.
The IDF forcibly removed them, and an agreement was reached by which they would refrain from moving into the property until they were able to register it.
But after five years of a protracted bureaucratic process, which included an appeal to a military arbitrations committee, the property has yet to be registered.
Last month, the settlers moved in, claiming that because the IDF had given them permission to purchase the property, they did not need to wait until completion of the legal proceedings.
They received initial verbal support from right-wing politicians. The Prime Minster’s Office and the Attorney-General’s Office held a number of meetings to explore avenues by which the families could remain in the building.
The families can ask the Civil Administration’s registration committee to temporarily give them rights to hold onto the property during the legal proceedings to transfer the title to their name, the state said.
“The state’s position is unfounded and has no basis in law,” a spokeswoman for the families said. The law does not require registration before possession, she said.
Whose word is going to be more reliable in this situation? The Israel Jews who have documented records of the purchase? Or the Palestinian family who, it is highly likely, given past experience, have been threatened with violence if they do not renege on the sale?
Why is the government “giving” with one hand and “taking away” with the other? Have they no guts?
Another example is settlement housing. One day they go up, next day they come down. The latest was the announcement that Israel is to build 3,000 “settler” homes in Judea and Samaria:
Plans for 3,000 homes are expected to be advanced in September when the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria holds its quarterly meeting, Channel 2 reported on Wednesday night.
At least one-third of the homes will be in the Samaria region of the West Bank. This includes 700 homes in Ariel, 260 in Tzofim and 97 in Rehelim.
Other plans include 192 homes in the Negohot settlement in the South Hebron Hills and 86 homes for the Migron families near the area of the Psagot winery where their modular homes have stood for the last five years, according to Channel 2.
Netanyahu has also promised that in September he would give the go-ahead for marketing 300 homes for the Beit El settlement.
And if you believe any of that I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Where have we heard all of this before? Why, they are re-selling the same homes that were already announced earlier this year!
Some of the plans on the list are part of the 5,000 homes that the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria has already advanced since the start of the year.
And as for the promises for the poor evacuees from Migron – don’t trust a word the government tells you:
On Wednesday night, some 100 people protested outside Airport City’s Avenue Hall near Ben-Gurion Airport where the Likud Party held its annual pre-Rosh Hashana toast with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
They demanded that he approve permanent housing for the 50 Migron families who were forcibly evacuated from the outpost homes in 2012.
They have been waiting since 2012 for permanent housing? Pshaw! That’s nothing! Look at the evacuees from the Gush Katif “Gaza Disengagement” of 2005. Some of them have only been waiting for 12 years – 12 years!! – for permanent housing after being thrown out for their houses for the crime of being Jewish in Gaza.
Let the poor evacuees from Amona be warned – do not depend on your government for anything. They will lie to you and play with your lives, but they will not provide you with the housing that you need.
However, in a letter sent Friday morning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Amona residents said the government had not yet begun work on a new site for them, had reneged on allowing them use of a plot, and acted improperly in appointing a project manager.
They also questioned whether Netanyahu had ever intended to keep his promises.
The short answer is No. The longer is No… but… it all depends on which way the political and diplomatic wind is blowing.
Let’s look at another pathetic climb-down by our lily-livered government. The Qatari-based Al Jazeera “news” outlet was ordered shut down a couple of weeks ago after it was accused of incitement:
Israel said on Sunday it planned to close the local offices of Al Jazeera, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Arab satellite news broadcaster of incitement behind deadly terror attacks.
Israel is to join regional Arab states that have already shut the station after accusing the broadcaster of inciting violence, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said.
Kara, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said he wants to revoke press cards from Al Jazeera reporters, which in effect would prevent them from working in Israel.
Kara added he has asked cable and satellite networks to block their transmissions and is seeking legislation to ban them altogether. No timetable for the measures was given.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia have recently closed Al Jazeera’s local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.
And then – you guessed it – this week the government shows signs of backing down:
Israel on Wednesday appeared to back down from its threat to shut the offices of the Al Jazeera television station, saying it would not revoke the press accreditation of its Jerusalem correspondent for now.
The Government Press Office said that the reporter, Elias Karram, who had been accused of being an “active partner in Palestinian resistance,” could now keep his press card following an investigation and hearing in which he said he condemned any use of violence.
“Following his remarks, it was decided to defer the suspension of his GPO card for six months, during which his press reports will be monitored,” the GPO said in a statement.
If it’s good enough for Arab countries to block Al Jazeera, why is it not good enough for Israel? What is our government afraid of?
The answer would appear to be – it’s own shadow.
The government needs to shape up or ship out. Enough of this swinging in the wind and reversing decisions. It makes citizens’ lives impossible, undermines any credibility in any agreements the government makes with its citizens, and in this way makes Israeli society ungoverned if not ungovernable.