Ulpana peace

Thankfully, we were spared the humiliating scenes of Amona in which Jews clashed with Jews while Israel’s enemies watched with relish.

Crane evacuates property at Ulpana 370 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Crane evacuates property at Ulpana 370
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
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.
Melamed’s supporters 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.
Yet, 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 elsewhere.
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.
Still, 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 in.”
The Left, meanwhile, supported the relocation of the settlers, but railed against the government’s willingness to build 10 times as many homes in Beit El.
“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 of Israel.
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.