While Americans and others are in high anxiety about Donald Trump, Israelis and some others are in a similar fever over a small settlement with the name of Amona, as well as a number of other scandals. 

 
After a month of vacation from politics for the sake of traditional holidays, our political shrillness is back to high volume.


The pictures we see from Amona are a hilltop with some 20-30 structures that appeared to have been originally caravans (trailers). The total population is about 200. The settlement dates from 1995, and by 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that it had been built on land owned by individual Palestinians, and must be removed.


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It's still there, but the most recent decision of the Supreme Court, turning down a government request for yet another delay, may signal the end of Amona.


There are more than two sides to the anxiety, but two are prominent. 


One of them is that the land was stolen by Jewish settler enterpreneurs, most likely with the help of Palestinians willing to exploit other Palestinians to get money from the Jews with false claims of ownership or forged documents.. By this view, the settlement must be vacated and the land turned back to those who had demonstrated ownership.


The second prominent view is that families settlers bought their homes innocent of any wrongdoing, have lived there for years, and should not suffer from the crimes of others.


A number of the settlers have brought their children to demonstrate along with them, and are promising to recruit thousands of supporters to resist any attempt to remove them. 


We've seen it before, when Ariel Sharon removed several larger settlements from Gaza, and when the government removed other small settlements defined as illegal from the West Bank.


Since the removal of settlements from Gaza brought forth missiles rather than any accommodation from Palestinians, sentiment has hardened against any major removals of West Bank settlers.


And there are numerous other cases, involving perhaps thousands of families, where Palestinians claim ownership of land used for the settlements of Jews.


With the deadline for removing Amona now defined as December 25, cynics can view it as Israelis' Christmas present to one another. Politicians, led by the religious and settler party Jewish Home, have been struggling to find a solution.


It appears that Amona's fate is sealed, pending whatever level of violence accompanies the actual removal, and the provision of alternate housing for the residents. Given the history of the Gaza removal, we can expect years of assertion that the government acted improperly, and that the housing provided for the residents is inadequate.


The focus of politicians' scurrying has turned from Amona to the many cases that may get to the courts with Palestinians claiming that Jews built on their land. 


We've known for years about murky deals where Jews and Arabs cooperate, with Arabs joining in the scams to forge documents or sell their relatives' land for inflated prices, then moving overseas to escape threats of death. There also have been cases where it appears that Palestinians have sold their land to Jews, or to Palestinian intermediaries who then sell it to Jews, with all of the transactions legal, but where the Palestinians later claim to have been cheated.


On the table are proposals  to offer Palestinian claimants compensation for land the courts decide was taken illegally, and to leave innocent Jewish homeowners in possession of their homes. Insofar as Palestinians face severe sanctions for selling land to Jews (including a Palestinian enactment imposing a sentence of death), the money would be deposited, held in escrow pending the possibility of its eventual acceptance. 


Not yet clear is how the actions conceived for other cases will be defined, whether they clear the courts, and what will be the responses from activists in Israel and elsewhere.


Opposition politicians are not restraining themselves from expressing the Hebrew equivalents of robbery and land grabs, done with the cooperation--active or passive--of the right wing government. 


A number of rightists are demanding legislation against the Supreme Court, while some of their party colleagues and others closer to the center want to help innocent settlers, but seem firm in their defense of the Court, and the rule of law. They also predict a tough international situation if Israeli authorities do not make an effort to honor their own courts and arrange something that would be fair to Palestinians.


Also in the air are disputes about the fairness of the international community, and the foggy nature of international law. Involved here is the assertion--adhered to by some Israelis but opposed by others--that the history of the West Bank renders the land "disputed" and not "Palestinian."


There are somewhere near 800,000 Jews living beyond the 1967 borders, about half in East Jerusalem and half in other parts of the West Bank. Palestinians view it as all their's.


Jerusalem's mayor has weighed in with the assertion that Arab squatters have built homes on land owned by Jews, and that he will order their destruction if actions go forward against Jews living on what Arabs claim to be their land. 


We're a long way from outcomes. 


Also in the news are charges that Prime Minister Netanyahu pressured his government colleagues to order three more high tech German submarines against the advise of military elites, perhaps to help the business activities of individuals close to him serving as intermediaries with the German manufacturers. Was this high scale patronage that will qualify for charges of corruption? Or perhaps a political action meant to help the German economy in exchange for continued political support from the German government? Or the government's decision that those submarines, with a reputed capability to fire nuclear-tipped missiles, provide what Israel would need as counter-threats against a unclear armed Iran or some other Muslim adversary?


This began with an expose' by one of Israel's television channels, which is beating the airwaves on a daily basis with updates on what they have found, and what they suspect.


Opposition politicians are certain of a smoking gun, and are demanding a thorough inquiry by the State Comptroller and/or the police.


On another front, the Arab Members of Knesset and officials of the Palestinian Authority are in full heat over a proposal to limit the volume of prayers broadcast over the loudspeakers of neighborhood mosques. Muslims are charging that it is a violation of religious freedom, and are calling for a religious rebellion. Jews here or elsewhere who adhere solidly to a politically correct view of multi-culturalism might spend a night within a kilometer of a Jerusalem mosque, and enjoy the ear-splitting prayers at 4 AM.


Critics are charging that the proposal for legislation is nothing more than political bombast. There are already provisions to curb excessive noise if officials chose to enforce them.


We may all agree that its time again for a Gevalt.


Comments welcome, from whatever perspective.



-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
irashark@gmail.com 
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