In stark contrast to the violent scenes witnessed in February 2006 at Amona, the
evacuation of settlers from the Ulpana outpost in Beit El has so far progressed
peacefully. And this is in large part due to the wisdom and courage of leaders
both in the government and among the settlers.
Beit El Rabbi Zalman
Melamed, the spiritual leader of the Ulpana residents, chose compromise over
violent or non-violent resistance. This was no easy decision for him. Melamed is
a fervent believer that the Zionist movement’s success in reestablishing Jewish
sovereignty over the Land of Israel – including Judea and Samaria – is a sign
that we are now living in an era of redemption leading ultimately to the
Messianic era. He sees every setback for Jewish settlements as a spiritual
regression contradictory to the heavenly plan. During the evacuation of Jewish
settlements in Gaza and northern Samaria, Melamed backed IDF soldiers who
refused to carry out orders – likening an order to evacuate a settlement from
the Land of Israel to the desecration of Shabbat.
would have backed their rabbi if he had ruled against compromise. Many settlers
talked of turning the Ulpana evacuation into a confrontation that would make
Amona pale in comparison as a means of deterring future evacuations.
Melamed – rising to the occasion like a true leader, sagaciously chose to forgo
the fundamentalist’s insistence on principle regardless of cost – adopting
instead the pragmatist’s appreciation for long-term goals. In exchange for
agreeing to peacefully evacuate as many as 30 housing units in the Ulpana
outpost, the government committed itself to building 10-fold that amount inside
Beit El itself.
The government also pledged to disassemble the Ulpana
buildings instead of demolishing them with bulldozers and reassembling them
Meanwhile, ministers involved in negotiations with the
settlers such as Bennie Begin and Gilad Erdan, demonstrated their leadership
capabilities by managing to uphold a Supreme Court ruling which settlers
bitterly opposed without having to use force.
Of course, upholding the
rule of law via peaceful means was not the only factor guiding Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s government. The last thing the prime minister wanted to see
were violent clashes between settlers – a major base of electoral support within
the Likud – and security forces operating under government orders.
Netanyahu navigated a moderate course between, on one hand, those within the
Likud – such as coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Information and Diaspora Affairs
Minister Yuli Edelstein and other popular lawmakers – who supported a bill that
would effectively bypass the Supreme Court ruling on the Ulpana outpost and, on
the other hand, those leaning more to the Left who would have refused to reach
an agreement with the settlers.
As expected, harsh criticism of the
arrangement has been voiced both on the Right and on the Left. Kiryat Arba and
Hebron Rabbi Dov Lior assailed the deal, declaring “agreements cannot be made
when it comes to the land of Israel.” MKs Arieh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari
(National Union) also derided settler leaders – especially Melamed – for “caving
The Left, meanwhile, supported the relocation of the settlers, but
railed against the government’s willingness to build 10 times as many homes in
“It is childish and excessive,” said Labor leader Shelly
Yechimovich, adding that the move caused unnecessary harm to Israel’s image
abroad. Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said the deal “rewards the lawless behavior
of the settlers.”
In reality, Ulpana’s residents are no criminals. They
did not know that the land on which they built their homes and raised their
families for the last decade belonged to a Palestinian. And they received
extensive support from the state, including the building of roads, installment
of utilities and other aid. There only crime is patriotism and love of the land
Under normal circumstances, a compromise could easily been
reached in which the Palestinian landowner received ample compensation with land
elsewhere, which he could actually use, without having to evacuate the settlers.
But that would have endangered his life.
Unfortunately, Ulpana was not
meant to be. Thankfully, we were spared the humiliating scenes of Amona in which
Jews clashed with Jews while Israel’s enemies watched with relish.