The world is not interested in Israel’s housing and bureaucratic problems, or in the achievements of its students in mathematics. The world is looking at how the only democracy in the Middle East conducts itself in the occupied territories.
By Niva Lanir
Whether or not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses “a supertanker against the bureaucracy,” as he calls it, to alleviate the housing shortage, a no-fly zone for supertankers already exists. It exists whether his idea crashes in the Knesset debates on housing reforms, or flies high above the railway line that’s supposed to be extended to Irbid in Jordan – in the East, where there are no procedures or bureaucracy.
Here is its description, from an article in these pages earlier this (“Gilad Farm has been sacrificed,” Karni Eldad, March 6 ): “At age 15, they expelled Elisaf Orbach from his home in Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. He was paid a small amount of compensation and went to Samaria, to build a small, 90-square-meter house to meet his needs until he gets married and has children.” Despite the sad continuation – “With his hands bound, on the way to the police van, Orbach heard a tractor destroying his house, five years after his house in the Gaza Strip had been leveled” – I clicked “Like.”
The concepts and the division of labor did that to me: expulsion and settling. A small house and a comfortable future, and even a twist in the plot: The forces of evil (police, army, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ) gang up on Elisaf and his friends and destroy all that good. And the Palestinians? In this story there are no Palestinians. Go see another movie.
Stealing land and illegal construction, evacuating a few buildings and rebuilding them, the state’s report to the High Court of Justice that by the end of the year it would evacuate all outposts built on private Palestinian land – all this is not new. These36repeat themselves like the periodic table. And yet, who would have believed that Netanyahu would get stuck in his second term in the construction business, of all things: freezing construction in the territories, the real-estate bubble, the housing shortage and the sky-rocketing prices. And who would have believed that the housing shortage, of all things, would threaten his coalition?
A few days ago he was still acknowledging that the U.S. veto at the United Nations showed that Israel’s status was in trouble. So to reduce political pressure, he sent up a trial balloon by talking to the media about a second Bar-Ilan speech on the peace process. The trial had not yet begun, Shas was already threatening to join in a no-confidence motion, and along came another trial balloon: the National Housing Commissions. Give that man a supertanker and he’ll leap the bureaucratichurdles.
If the Hebrew children’s book “The Story of Five Balloons” had been written about Benjamin, the number of his balloons and their colors would have doubled, if not tripled, over the years. And that’s how many would have burst. Netanyahu, to his credit or discredit, is still able to create news from a non-item and extricate himself from crises. But another day is waiting. The sun will rise from the region where supertankers do not fly – the territories. The occupation.
On the day this week when the BBC released a survey ranking Israel at the bottom of a list of countries by popularity, Britain announced that it had upgraded the Palestinian delegation’s status in London. With thiscame, apparently coincidently, interviews with our ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, who is on his way to the United Nations. “After thefall of apartheid and the the Communist bloc in Europe,” he told radio and television journalist Yaron Dekel, “Israel is meeting the need of the British, the Spanish and the Scandinavians to be against.”
Here’s the problem: The world is not interested in Israel’s housing and bureaucratic problems, or in the achievements of its students in mathematics. The world is looking at how the only democracy in the Middle East conducts itself in the occupied territories. It’s looking atevents in Bil’in and Sheikh Jarrah, at the olive trees that are uprooted, and at the checkpoints. It’s looking at the settlers who are shooting and setting fires, and at their leaders, MK Michael Ben-Ari, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, bullying their way through Jaffa and Umm al-Fahm.
The world is looking at Israel as it looked at South Africa during apartheid. And the world that doesn’t know what Bar-Ilan 2 is will eventually find out. That’s not unpleasant, it’s terrible.
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