Meditations on today’s news

I opened my newspaper this morning (Wednesday) and was greeted with the headline: the White House has no comment on the regularization law that was passed yesterday, and will talk about it when PM Netanyahu visits Washington to meet with President Trump next week.

Imagine my relief. I mean, why should the White House have an opinion about something which is really an internal Israeli affair? I am amused – well, pretty irritated, actually – by the way Ha’aretz and my social media friends have decided to call it the “land grab law,” when it actually goes farther to compensate owners of land than customary common law would. As Eugene Kontorovich explains,

Israel’s proposed “Regulations Bill” has attracted broad international criticism, including from the U.S. State Department and the European Union, as well as from opposition Israeli politicians and some government lawyers. The bill seeks to solve a situation in which, over several decades, over one thousand Israeli homes in West Bank settlements have been built in open areas to which Palestinians subsequently asserted property claims, typically based on broad give-aways of state land by the King of Jordan during the Hashemite occupation (1949-67). The homes are in communities built with some level of government involvement. Thus the bill provides the government would compensate the landowners 125% of the value of the land, in order to allow the communities that have been built there to remain.

The plots are generally open, uncultivated fields. The frequently used characterization of “private Palestinian lands” is misleading. In the overwhelming majority of cases, no individual Palestinians have come forward to claim the lands. Indeed, in most cases, no property claimants asserted their interests for decades after houses were built, a situation that in common law would certainly warrant the application of adverse possession doctrines, under which long-term possession of property unprotested by owners can change legal title, exactly to prevent these kinds of conflict between long-term users and owners who slept on their rights . Under Jordanian law, rules of prescription, which would turn the land over to its existing inhabitants, would apply. In cases like the community of Amona, which inspired but are not covered by the law, the Court made its determination without any fact-finding, and the lands claimed by the Palestinian petitioners only slightly overlap with those on which the Israeli homes stand.

It’s not really a big deal, is it? No Palestinians are being exploited, and the residents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are just getting the same kind of protection for their investment as people in the rest of Israel, the US and many other developed countries have. Better, since the state is willing to pick up the tab for compensation.

Of course the world leaders in virtue and morality, the EU and the governments of Germany and France, are dead set against the law. The folks whose wisdom brought us two world wars and a Holocaust have “lost confidence” that we are serious about the “two-state solution” that they hope will slice our country into indefensibility.

Later today I listened on the radio to the reactions of the European representatives in Israel. You would think that the Knesset had passed a law demanding that the Palestinians must throw all their male children into the sea, and not one that simply makes it possible to compensate people in return for taking property that they may not even have clear title to, and haven’t used for years, if ever. I am becoming more and more convinced that after Iran, Europe is our greatest enemy, and the Palestinians their weapon.

Well, Amona is rubble, its residents are homeless, and the cabal made up of the Civil Administration (the military entity that rules Area C, where almost all Jewish settlements are and few Arabs live), the left-leaning legal establishment, and the subversive European-paid NGOs are smacking their lips over how they will do the same to numerous other Jewish communities, just as soon as the Supreme Court voids the new law.

Because, after all, who cares what the democratically elected Knesset and government decide? Don’t we understand who really runs the country and knows what’s good for us? Those religious settler fanatics are an obstacle to peace! Just ask the talking heads on Israeli radio and TV.

Which brings me to the next headline: Channel 2 reports that Netanyahu told the police that have been investigating him nonstop for who knows how long, that he didn’t know about bottles of champagne and other gifts received by his wife from a businessman friend, and he didn’t check the value of cigars that he himself was given. He just smoked them! Not only that, but he told the police that he bought plenty of cigars with his own money.

So, just some random thoughts on this “scandal:” Channel 2 has been selectively dribbling out information about Netanyahu’s supposedly confidential police investigations for months. Where do they get it, and why is it OK for them to release out-of-context snippets of interrogations in a country where the names and faces of people accused of crimes are routinely redacted from news reports?

The investigation itself is on the same level as one of the previous ones, in which Mrs. Netanyahu was accused of returning deposit bottles that had been used at official functions, and keeping the money. Yes, she did it; yes, the small amount of money was returned; and yes, the silliness of creating a scandal about deposit bottles was duly noted.

The fact is that the same media people that deliberately mischaracterize the regularization law and also gleefully bash Netanyahu on every occasion, are running a long-term project to make him look like a crook. How much of the evening news is devoted to his non-scandals, almost every day? How many hours has he wasted, answering police questions and trying to deal with the fallout from these frivolous investigations? He’s the Prime Minister of the strongest country in the region, economically and militarily, the one and only Jewish state – which half the world hates and wants to destroy – and you are busting his balls about some cigars?

This isn’t really funny. Netanyahu has said that he believes there is a media campaign to force the Attorney General to indict him. And if he is indicted, he could be forced to resign.

The story on page 11 of the newspaper reminds me that not everything is frivolous or political. It is about Trump and Iran trading barbs over the Iranian missile development program. Now that Obama is gone, it may be possible for the US and Israel to develop an effective policy to prevent their common enemy, Iran, from producing and deploying nuclear weapons.

I devoutly hope that this will be the main subject for discussion between Netanyahu and Trump, rather than Judean real estate law. Or cigars.

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4 Responses to Meditations on today’s news

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    There is a tactical foul- up here which those who supported the Regulation Bill should have been aware of. You note it. The Law is definitely going to be voided by the Supreme Court. The Attorney-General no flaming lefty will not support the Law.
    Given the wall-to-wall attack on Israel which could surely have been anticipated by its supporters why did they make a move which will have in the end no positive practical effect? Couldn’t they at any point put the overall situation and struggle of Israel before their concern for their own people and devotion to Eretz Yisrael?
    Perhaps my question is stupid but it does point to something which I believe bothers the great majority of Israelis now. What exactly do we want? Do we want the whole of Eretz Yisrael and with it all the Arabs, or do we want a maximum amount of land with a minimum of those who will not be loyal to the Jewish state?
    2)On the second issue- there is no doubt that there is a witch- hunt and unfairness in regard to Netanyahu.
    Nonetheless there are many questionable elements in how he is acting and how he has acted. These relate to things more significant than the gifts from Milchan and the talks with Moses. They relate to many problems connected with him including the seeming impression that Israel cannot possibly manage without him, and that he will necessarily be its leader for many years to come. They too relate to the alliance with the Haredim and the damage it has done to Israel in a number of ways.

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    I by this time should have understood your position and not written my initial comment in the way I did.
    But I still do not understand how Israel will remain a Jewish state if it has another large Arab population as a part of it. At minimum we would have thirty- five to forty- percent of the population as Arabs, and we would be as a Jewish state in a situation of constant threat from within. Were we simply to suppress them in various ways we would lose our moral integrity.
    So while I agree with you that a Palestinian state given who the Palestinians are is a mortal danger to Israel. I would also say declaring all of Judea and Samaria as part of Israel is a mortal danger. I therefore tend to the view which I think many perhaps even most Israelis hold in which heavily Jewish populated areas should become part of the Jewish state, and the more heavily populated Arab areas be part of some other realm.

  3. Shavua tov,

    I don’t think we should simply annex all of Judea and Samaria today. We should start by extending Israeli law to Area C. But I do think the official position of the government should be that all of the land belongs to us by international law, and our ultimate goal should be to annex all of it.
    By the way, you know that all Americans can’t vote in national elections, do you not? For example, Puerto Rico residents only vote for candidates from the governor of PR down. Yet nobody says that the US is an apartheid state because of this. So why can’t we annex all of the land and create autonomous regions analogous to PR in the heavily populated Arab areas? As Mordechai Kedar says, we could allow the various clans to rule their areas.

  4. Shalom Freedman says:

    I also thought that we should begin with an annex Area C. But even this step which seems logical from our point- of- view may come into contradiction not only with the view of the vast majority of nations of the world but the present U.S. Administration.
    I wonder that is what good it does to take a step which no one else in the world recognizes.
    As to the Puerto Rican example it seems to me purely theoretically. We are contending with something far larger and more insistent. Whether the Palestinian Arabs are a fake people or not, and whether they are truly a nation or not they have an enormous lobby championing them. I do not know if any kind of peaceful resolution with them will ever be possible. Perhaps the regional approach with Saudi money might do something now. But again there is Hamas and it does not seem likely until Hamas is broken and loses its political power. This also seems unlikely.
    So perhaps you are right to think that we should take one- sided steps to ensure that we have what we want without imposing sovereignty on an additional million to two million Arabs.
    We are talking about ‘the art of the possible’ and what that is I do not really know.

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