There seems to be no limit to the hypocrisy and double-talk to which Israeli voters are being exposed in this election season.
This week’s installment of double-speak came from no lesser a luminary than Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is quickly proving himself to be a master of the genre. Speaking from the podium of the Knesset plenum, Gantz, who has held this position for three years under as many prime ministers, is the man responsible for waging and winning Israel’s battle for Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction under international law.
In the three years of Gantz’s tenure, Israel’s activities in Area C, which require resolute action to uphold the stated policy of the Israeli government, have degenerated to the point of being virtually non-existent. Rather than confronting the relentless takeover of the territory by the Palestinian Authority with a show of force, under Gantz’s command, the protection of Israel’s vital interests in the region has become a show and a farce.
At last count, over 100,000 dunams (nearly 25 thousand acres) of Israeli state land in Area C have been overtaken by hostile concerns, as the Israeli government purposefully ignores what is happening right under its nose. Through a clearly stated program of illegal construction and agricultural projects, the Palestinian Authority has accelerated the already-staggering pace at which it is creating a de facto State of Palestine in area C of Judea and Samaria – no negotiation or compromise necessary, courtesy of the Europeans who never fail to accuse Israel of unilateral actions that upset the status quo.
Analysis of aerial photography indicates that as of December 2021, Palestinians have built 70,000 illegal structures in Area C – averaging seven new illegal structures every day, day in and day out. According to UN data, which is notoriously skewed against Israel, the sum total of all demolitions carried out by Israel’s Civil Administration in Area C in the past 13 years (August 1, 2009 – August 1, 2022) is 6,802. Of this paltry 10% of illegal structures, the vast majority were insignificant agricultural or commercial structures, amounting to “cosmetic” demolitions.
NONETHELESS, earlier this week our defense minister stood at the Knesset podium and delivered a classic electioneering speech, touting his dedication to law and order and even-handed enforcement. Without batting an eyelash, Gantz drew a specious parallel between illegal construction in the Jewish and Arab sectors in Area C – an equivalence so far-fetched as to be akin to a blood libel.
Illegal Palestinian-sector construction in Area C – planned, funded and carried out by hostile foreign concerns with the expressed intention of ridding all of Judea and Samaria of any Jewish presence, as per the precedent set by the Jordanians during their illegal 19-year occupation – bears no resemblance to construction violations committed by Jews in Area C. Any and every parameter of comparison illustrates the absurdity of Gantz’s statement: The extent of illegal construction in each sector, the rationale and impetus for that construction, and most particularly the wildly divergent rates of enforcement against illegal construction, leave no room for any comparison.
Never has such cynical sloganeering so abused the concept of equal and universal law enforcement. Never before have the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria been subjected to such outrageous, slanderous and unfounded comparisons with those who seek our eradication. Never in Israel’s history has a defense minister had so poor a grasp of the importance of controlling strategic ground.
Benny Gantz’s double-speak in the Knesset was an apt reflection of his “policy” as defense minister: pathetic, infuriating – and dangerous.
The writer is the director of the International Division of Regavim, a public Israeli movement dedicated to the protection of Israel’s land resources and the preservation of Israeli sovereignty.