A freeze that will not thaw

Five months after the building moratorium ‘ended,’ the situation remains the same.

A field trip in Pisgat Yaakov settlement 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
A field trip in Pisgat Yaakov settlement 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On September 26, with much fanfare and the rapt attention of the international media, the 10-month building freeze in Judea and Samaria came to an end. Or so the world was led to believe.
Yes, we have made considerable efforts to reverse the enormous damage of this wasted 10 months of potential growth. Yet the harsh reality is that the freeze essentially remains in place.
Particularly in the larger communities like Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Karnei Shomron and Betar Illit, the government has refused to issue the necessary tenders to enable us to build as we should be legally and morally allowed to.
Let there be no doubt why these tenders haven’t been issued. The government’s inaction is the result of the joint policies of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who would rather try to appease the Obama administration than address the legitimate housing needs of those they represent.
In recent days, we have witnessed a renewed volley of pronouncements opposing construction voiced by the prime minister.
When the government cranks out statements opposing the legitimate development needs of our communities, the fear is that it will soon return to its default policy of a strict freeze, motivated by a somewhat pathetic quest to appease foreign governments.
Beyond the obvious harm these policies do to the families living in Judea and Samaria, the most painful aspect is when we recognize how pointless a process these freezes truly are. Any objective observer will quickly conclude that the building freeze achieved absolutely nothing in terms of advancing trust from the Palestinian side. In fact, we are likely at the coldest point in years in terms of our relationship with Ramallah.
So while the global mantra to cease building continues, our government meekly caves in to these demands rather than defend our national interests and right to self-governance. The Palestinians know better than anyone that the conflict has nothing to do with house or school building.
Having grown accustomed to masterfully manipulating international opinion for their benefit, the Palestinians have put it in the minds of world leaders that the desire to expand my porch is the central issue that has precluded us from reaching a peace agreement. Conveniently ignored, of course, is the Palestinians’ historic contempt for Israel, manifested by a refusal to recognize our right to exist as a Jewish state.
ONCE AGAIN influenced only by international pressure, the calls to cease building in our homeland have been accompanied in recent days by forced dismantling of homes.
Most regrettable were the actions taken by the police, who relied on excessive violence, including the use of special bullets defined as “lesslethal,” in an attempt to silence demonstrators protesting these forced evacuations. This represents the crossing of an implicit red line that should never be crossed again.
Within the protests aroused by this police behavior, a few incidents of the so-called price-tag occurred, damaging the property of innocents. I denounce such actions, and believe this small collection of people should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Yet, while the media all too often fall into the trap of conveying the message that such illegal actions are typical of the settler movement, nothing could be further from the truth.
The illegal and unacceptable activities of a tiny minority do not, and never will, reflect the will or values of the majority of the people who live in these areas. These Israelis in fact desire quiet and peaceful coexistence with our neighbors, and the right to meet their families’ needs without provocation or incitement.
As a proud, patriotic community that understands a strong and protected Judea and Samaria is central to preserving a strong and protected Israel, we cannot be silent.
We will act responsibly and within the boundaries of legitimate protest in a democratic society. At the same time, we are determined to defend our interests, which are Israel’s too, and ensure that the vision of growth and prosperity that has always defined the people of Judea and Samaria will continue to serve as our legacy – both for our benefit and the benefit of all Israelis- whether they might be found.
The writer is chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.