Beit Hamachpela in Hebron 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In a surprise swift swoop on Wednesday, Border Police easily evicted Jewish
residents from a small apartment house near Hebron’s Cave of the
Thus without much fanfare ended yet another attempt to expand
the Jewish toehold in the city.
Whether one agrees with the removal of
the families or not, a very unsavory component of the saga has been embedded in
our public discourse: Israel’s own defense minister has told the world that the
very presence of Jews in arbitrarily decreed locations within the cradle of
Jewish nationhood that is Judea and Samaria can be deemed “a threat to public
That’s precisely how the Arabs have described the entire Zionist
endeavor since the 19th century onward and precisely the reason for which the
British Mandate forbade land purchases by Jews in its draconian 1939 White
Paper. Herein lies the danger inherent in Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s
He imparts a fundamentally damaging impression both to public
opinion at home and abroad just when Israel is critically challenged by a
relentless and escalating campaign of demonization.
slanderers now need only quote Barak to undermine the very legitimacy of the
state of Israel as well as of those “settlement blocs” to which Barak presumably
For Israel’s detractors, no difference exists between Tel
Aviv, Jerusalem, Ariel or Hebron – to say nothing of between “approved Jewish”
homes in Hebron and the disputed Beit Hamachpela, which, evicted Jewish
residents maintain, was bought and paid for in full. The realization that to our
enemies we’re all the same must never fade from our collective consciousness.
Hence extra sensitivity, care and forbearance wouldn’t have gone
Beit Hamachpela is situated in a section of Hebron which is anyway
under Israeli military control and which includes other Jewish enclaves. It was
thus hardly likely to have constituted an outstanding menace to public
Then there’s the technicality on which Barak based his decision to
expel the Jewish residents, i.e. that they hadn’t obtained military
authorization to move in, irrespective of whether they’re the legal owners of
The power to arbitrarily ban Jewish residence confers in
Barak’s hands clout the voters didn’t grant him.
He was incontrovertibly
routed in the last elections and has lost even more support since his split from
Labor. Nevertheless, despite heading a minuscule political fragment, Barak has
maneuvered himself in the current coalition setup to a position whereby he
dictates policy to a majority that doesn’t share his political
That potentially distorts democracy and can crucially
further erode public confidence in the system.
We’re faced with a state
of affairs in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accedes to Barak’s
positions in order to not to be tagged as excessively rightist. Barak in turn
tilts leftward in order not to be denounced as Netanyahu’s enabler. The upshot
is that both seek to curry left-wing favor, allowing Barak – with the attorney-
general’s sanction – to be simultaneously a side to the argument and its the
Lost in the hullabaloo is Hebron’s special status, which
David Ben-Gurion described as “Jerusalem’s sister,” second only to the capital
in sanctity and historic significance to the Jewish people. Laborites such as
Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon approved the Jewish return to Hebron in
Hebron is the nation’s first capital and home to an ancient Jewish
community that was brutally uprooted in the murderous 1929 Arab pogrom. If Jews
have no right to reside in Hebron, they can hardly claim any other stretch of
The stock retort to the Beit Hamachpela evacuees is that if
they dislike Barak’s ruling, they’re free to petition the High Court of Justice.
In theory this makes sense, but the reality is that settlers doubt they can get
a fair shake from the Supreme Court. They feel pushed into a corner where they
must resort to faits accomplis. Radicalization isn’t far behind.
each additional high-handed edict from officialdom, settlers grow more
alienated, increasing the likelihood of conflicts, however undesirable and
Levelheadedness in high places can prevail and yield less