A striking aspect of the so-called building freeze in Judea and Samaria that
expired last week is that an enormous amount of construction went on throughout
the last 10 months. The Arabs of Judea and Samaria were not only building
without restrictions, the US, Europe and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf
bankrolled much of their construction.
The presumptive purpose of the
freeze was to prevent Israel from creating “facts on the ground” that would
prejudice the outcome of the so-called peace talks with Fatah. This goal is
justified on the basis of the Palestinian misinterpretation of a clause in the
1995 agreement between Israel and the PLO in which they agreed that “neither
side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status
The clause was never intended to refer to construction,
and “neither side,” of course, relates to both Israel and the
But since the agreement was signed, while the Palestinian
misinterpretation has been widely adopted, only one side has been held to
Whereas every Jewish home built since 1995 has evoked a storm of
international criticism, the Palestinians have built thousands upon thousands of
buildings throughout the areas. They have done so in total disregard for
planning and zoning ordinances and even the basic considerations of supply and
demand. For instance, a motorist travelling from Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim
will pass hundreds of empty five-story buildings in Issawiya and other Arab
neighborhoods built for the sole purpose of preventing Israel from connecting
So too, Fatah-appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad has been absolutely clear that the Palestinians are building the
new city of Rawabi to “change the status” of Judea and Samaria and prepare the
ground for the establishment of a state outside the framework of the
As the Binyamin citizens’ committee has warned, the
Palestinians chose to locate the new city in the heart of the predominantly
Jewish area to undermine the territorial contiguity of the Jewish communities
The situation in Judea and Samaria at the end of the moratorium is
not what the participants in the global anti-Israel pileon would have us all
believe. We do not have avaricious Jews gobbling up all available land at the
expense of the guileless, disenfranchised Palestinians. And what is at stake
with the end of the freeze is not the fate of the so-called peace
What we have is a situation in which there are two sets of rules
– one for Arabs and one for Jews. Not only are Jews not given extraordinary
rights, they are being denied what are supposed to be their inviolable rights to
their private property. Not only are laws being enforced with great prejudice to
the benefit of the Palestinians, they are being enforced with great prejudice
against the Jews.
So what is at stake with the end of the freeze is not
the fate of a future peace. What is at stake is the principle that Jews can
expect minimal protection of their fundamental rights to their property from the
Israeli government. And if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu manages to
withstand the new tsunami of pressure from the Obama administration to reinstate
the abrogation of Jewish rights, he will not be harming peace any more than if
he bows to that pressure, he will advance the cause of peace.
based on the nullification of Jewish rights is nothing more than a recipe for
If Netanyahu manages to withstand US President Barack Obama’s
threats and harangues, all his action will do is maintain a bare minimum of
protection for Jewish rights. That is, if he manages to keep his pledge to the
Israeli people and not prolong the discriminatory freeze, he will have done the
bare minimum to maintain Israel’s commitment to the rule of law and liberal
WHEN WE recognize that the demand for a moratorium on Jewish
building is an issue of civil rights and the rule of law rather than an issue of
peace, we recognize that the plight of the Jews in Judea and Samaria is little
different from the plight of Jews throughout the country. Jews in the Negev, the
Galilee and the Golan Heights face discrimination that is little different from
that faced by the Jews of Judea and Samaria.
Take the plight of Yehuda
Marmor, a third generation rancher in the Lower Galilee community of Yavniel
with a herd of 220 cattle. For the past eight years, he and his ranch have been
regularly attacked by a gang of Israeli Arab livestock thieves and squatters
from the Bashir clan. The clan hails from the Arab villages around Moshav
Tzipori some 40 kilometers from Yavniel.
Marmor alleges that he was shot
by members of the clan while he was trying to prevent them from stealing his
cattle in 2002. Six hours after he testified against them in court, 2,000 dunams
of his grazing land were set ablaze. He has suffered from regular theft of his
cattle every two to three months for the past eight years. Two years ago, seven
kilometers of fences around his grazing land were destroyed.
Marmor has a
thick stack of complaints he has filed against the Bashir clan. The police have
closed investigations into all of them on the grounds of lack of public interest
in the complaints or lack of evidence.
Marmor went to court to get a
restraining order against the clan. The police have refused to enforce
A walk around Marmor’s ranch shows that his land, which overlooks the
Jezreel Valley along the Sea of Galilee, has clear military significance. As
Jews like Marmor are increasingly leaving ranching and allowing Arab land
thieves to overrun their properties due to lack of police protection or court
enforcement of their rights, the need to defend those who remain expands by the
day. Marmor is able to continue ranching due to the efforts of the volunteers
from the New Israeli Guardsmen, a voluntary organization established three years
ago by the sons of farmers and ranchers who banded together to protect their
parents’ livelihoods and lives in the face of police paralysis.
Ilan Milles from Neveh Atib in the northern Golan Heights. For seven years, he
worked to realize his dream of building a farmers’ market at the entrance to the
Mount Hermon National Park.
Milles received all the permits and licenses,
raised the money and was all set to begin work earlier this year. But before his
contractor could begin the job, the pro- Syrian Druse from neighboring villages
decided they wanted the project for themselves.
So they threatened the
After repeated attempts to reach an accommodation with the
Druse failed, Milles asked Regavim, a nonprofit group that lobbies government
bodies to protect Jewish land rights, for help.
Regavim convinced the
relevant ministries to permit him to move ahead with construction. Everything
was set to go in May. But then, the police intervened.
Claiming that it
would endanger the lives of construction workers, the police slapped a no work
order on Milles the night before he was scheduled to break
Regavim petitioned the High Court to force the police to protect
Milles’s property rights. This month the court ruled in his favor and
construction is set to begin on November 1. Whether this is the end of the story
is anyone’s guess.
The court’s decision is a welcome departure from its
general practice. In its 2004 landmark ruling in the Ka’adan case, the court
ruled that the state may not discriminate against Arabs in leasing land. This
put an end to the establishment of Jewish communities throughout the Jewish
The ruling might have been justifiable on liberal grounds if it
were applied across the board. However, it does not apply to Arabs.
state continues to issue tenders for land leases to Arabs only. While the state
actively develops Arab-only communities in the Negev and Galilee, Jews are
barred from building Jewish communities even on lands owned by the Jewish
National Fund – a private trust which is bound by its charter to only develop
its lands for Jewish settlement.
When the nonenforcement of the criminal
code against Arab livestock rustlers, land squatters, illegal builders and tax
evaders is brought into the equation, we have a situation nationwide where there
are two sets of rules: one for Jews and one for Arabs. Jews are denied their
basic property rights and protection under the law, while Arabs are not only
protected, they are immune from prosecution if they fail to abide by the law of
The most bizarre and glaring example of this is the situation
in Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, otherwise known as Sheikh
Jarrah. There, every Friday self-proclaimed liberals stage violent riots with
local Arabs to try to transform the area into a Jew-free zone.
who live in there are not illegal squatters. They are the lawful owners of their
properties who fought in the courts for years to have their ownership rights
vindicated. What we see in Shimon Hatzadik every Friday are not peaceful
demonstrations in favor of a discriminated against Arab minority. They are
organized, violent assaults on the very notion of the rule of law. And these
assaults are undertaken by a consortium of Arabs and leftist radicals who
believe that Jews have no civil rights because they are Jews.
these rioters is a Jerusalem municipality that is still smarting from the Obama
administration’s unprecedented assault last spring. That attack was precipitated
by the Jerusalem planning board’s decision to approve the construction of
housing units in a Jewish neighborhood.
Today Mayor Nir Barkat is
ignoring court orders to destroy dozens of illegal Arab buildings in eastern
Jerusalem out of fear of the international outcry that would ensue.
lesson of all of this is clear enough. As Israel faces the ire of the
international hanging jury for refusing to reinstate the prohibition on Jewish
building in Judea and Samaria, our citizens and our leaders need to make a
decision. Will we take the necessary steps to protect and strengthen our liberal
democracy where the rule of law is defended and the principle of equality before
the law is upheld? Or will we bow to international pressure and allow the Jewish
state to become an illiberal democracy-inname- only where the rights of Jews
must be systematically denied?