Monday, April 23, 2012

A little neighborhood, a whole world of trouble

A little neighborhood, a whole world of trouble
Vice Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon has over the years taken the moral high ground on public matters. I do not share Ehud Barak's view that Bogie holds "Feiglinist" convictions (referring to hard-line Likud figure Moshe Feiglin). Even Ya'alon's desire to unseat Barak as defense minister is defensible. This is what politics is all about after all.

Still, on the issue of Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, Ya'alon has jumped the gun. The way he sees it, the government's dissolution is preferable to an evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood and having its land returned to its rightful Palestinians owners. Such a mind-set goes too far. It is unbecoming of a senior cabinet minister to put the coalition's stability on an equal footing with a Beit El neighborhood. 

The facts surrounding the unsanctioned construction of the new neighborhood in Beit El and in its proximity to the large settlement make this case a tough nut to crack. This is abundantly clear to anyone willing to delve into the details. Some in Beit El acted recklessly by not putting an end to the construction of two structures outside the designated residential area, carried out in violation of a High Court of Justice ruling; at this point, given that the structures are still vacant, demolishing them would be the right thing to do. One must also ask why the local council, which has the obligation to inform its residents of both their rights and their duties, did not step in on time.

On the main bone of contention, the Ulpana neighborhood, the saber-rattling on the part of cabinet ministers has nothing to do with the settlement issue and has everything to do with who will get to be the next minister of defense; it is a popularity contest within the Likud befitting the primary election fever that the party as a whole has caught. The supremacy of the law must be preserved; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows all about it, probably more than anyone else -- he routinely has to answer complaints and reports from the West over illegal settlement activity on private property in Judea and Samaria. 

But the law does allow some wiggle room; those well-versed in the details know this. Zoning plans from the 1980s and the 1990s that have been all-but discarded could untie this knot. Beit El also has about five acres of state-owned land that have not been developed, and they can serve as a viable alternative for the would-be evacuees. And if the High Court of Justice receives a well-written request this week, it might issue a prolonged stay on the evacuation order to allow the proper transition, so long as a valid case is made. 

This battle will end in a compromise. Knesset legislation to bypass the court -- an anti-democratic move -- will not save the day this time around. While some politicos are itching for a fight, they will just have to wait for the next round. It would be inconceivable to fight a civil war over a neighborhood the majority of whose residents have called it home for many years with the backing of the government or its tacit endorsement (or so they thought, in their naivete).
"War is not an adventure. It is a disease," the author of "The Little Prince," Antoine de Saint-Exupery, once famously observed. This applies to civil wars, too.

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