This is the disturbing reality of Israeli land theft and right-wing rule

Amira Hass

Haaretz  /  March 22, 2023

The approval of a bill allowing Israelis to return to four West Bank settlements reflects the rise of the monster against its creator. Methods that Israel and the settlers successfully used against Palestinians are now undermining segments of Jewish Israeli society.

Though Israel’s Knesset passed an amendment to the Disengagement Law late Monday night allowing Israelis to return to four previously dismantled West Bank settlements, Kadim, Ganim, Sa-Nur and Homesh were never removed from the Yesha Council of Settlements’s list of existing settlements on its Hebrew website.

Yesha’s list also includes all the settlements in the Gaza Strip, which were dismantled in the 2005 disengagement. It’s still difficult (with emphasis on still) to see the representatives of Judea and Samaria in the Knesset – the hyperactive MKs of the Religious Zionism party and their imitators in Likud – forcing Israel and the IDF to bring back Jews to the water and land-starved Strip.

But it’s easy to imagine quasi-private and semi-official settlement bodies like Amana, Nahala, and the Shomron Regional Council funding the residence of Israelis in the four sites in the northern West Bank. Such residence requires mobile homes and tents, water, generators, soldiers as guards who won’t hesitate to shoot, wound or kill Palestinian protesters, military judges to send the Palestinian protesters to jail, contractors to restore access roads, Knesset members to visit, dance and establish makeshift parliamentary offices.

All this was available to the settlers even before the amendment passed – now it will be so 10 times over.

At first glance, the recent amendment shows the exceptional determination of the settler movement, which has overcome all the laws and diplomatic agreements to occupy the hearts of most Israelis. A festive event – that’s how National Missions Minister Orit Strock, who also holds the settlements portfolio, described the Knesset’s amendment on the Reshet Bet radio morning show, as the interviewer struggled to contain her enthusiastic speech about the Land of Israel and the rightness of the words of Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich (who said “there is no Palestinian people”).

But in fact, the passage of the amendment reflects the rise of the monster against its creator. Israel is not just a state that builds settlements, but a settlement enterprise, a colonial project with a Knesset and a state.

The current coup on Israel’s system of government is proceeding at lightning speed before our eyes, featuring the same methods that have enabled the settling process: planning in secret, lying without blinking, economic trickery, distorting facts, twisting laws, violating international law, tolerance by the police, military, prosecutors and courts towards settler violence and violation of the handful of rulings of the High Court of Justice concerning a tiny part of Palestinian lands that were stolen. And at the top of the list? A lack of consideration for the views and needs of the majority by excluding the Palestinians from every consideration. This is the pure racism we’ve grown used to, in the guise of fair statistical calculations.

Let’s take Homesh as one example of many. In 1978, a military order seized agricultural land belonging to residents of the two Palestinian villages of Burka and Silat al-Dhahr. A military outpost was established there which later, in April 1980, turned into a civilian community – Homesh.

The website of Kerem Navot, a nonprofit group that investigates and documents Israel’s policy of land theft, shows an internal military document from that month concerning the new settlement. The document explains “The purpose: To civilianize the [military] outpost while avoiding as much as possible any reporting, both to the locals and also to the media.”

The seizing order was not revoked immediately after the disengagement, but only after a legal battle by the lawful owners of the land. But the settlers, with the help of the state, IDF and the police, prevented Palestinians’ return to their lands using various violent methods. It’s all here: A lack of consideration for the rights and needs of the Palestinians, spitting on international law, tricks to evade the law, disrespect for the High Court of Justice and leniency toward Jewish violence.

For over 50 years, the State of Israel has utilized settlements in order to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the area captured in 1967. It has shattered the space and created disconnected enclaves of debilitated Palestinian self-rule, with limited access to land and water.

It has always been a tango: the state legislates, plans, steals Palestinian land and settles. The settlers take a few steps forward, ostensibly overstepping the official plan, and whine about their deprivation. The state forgives, retroactively approves, publishes new initiatives while the settlers make their own, steal more Palestinian land and whine about their own deprivation. The state takes mercy on them, approves and so on and so forth.

Religious-national fervor alone doesn’t fully explain the phenomenon. The cheek-to-cheek tango the government and its institutions dance with the settlers has built their enormous political power, which has been bolstered by subsidies, benefits, and promised socioeconomic advancement to ideological and non-ideological settlers alike – Haredim, Zionist Haredim, and nonreligious settlers.

Furthermore, the general indifference of Israelis towards what is happening beyond the Green Line, as well as Western countries’ support for Israel despite their official opposition to settlements, has played a crucial role in strengthening the settlers’ grip on power.

Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement in 2005 was predicated on a military and economic cost-benefit analysis: Too many troops were required to protect the settlements in the Gaza Strip and the lone settlements in the northern West Bank. The disengagement plan was, in fact, congruous with the Israeli agenda of separating Palestinians from each other since 1991 (in violation of the Oslo Accords), effectively disconnecting the population of the Gaza Strip from that of the West Bank. This has been the primary means of foiling a Palestinian state.

Some naively believed that the disengagement was a precursor to further withdrawals. If that was the intention, Israel would have unilaterally changed the illogical and artificial classification of the dismantled settlement sites from Area C, under full Israeli security and administrative control, to Area A or B, under Palestinian civil and administrative authority.

Furthermore, Israel would not have prevented the Palestinian Authority (as obedient and submissive as its Israeli proponents hoped it would be) from making use of these lands in the Jenin region (public or private, it doesn’t matter), to establish resort villages, renovate the mosque in Sa-Nur and protect farmers.

When all Israeli governments since Ariel Sharon didn’t do this, they signaled to the settlers that they could continue to employ their well-funded machinations to again demand ownership of stolen land. Consequently, the amendment to the Disengagement Law was implemented, to a large extent, long before it was formally proposed.

Are you looking for the Deep State? It can be found alive and kicking in the World Zionist Organization, Jewish National Fund, Judea and Samaria Council, the settlement local councils and the right-wing institutions funded by Jewish American millionaires and billionaires. It’s also in the Israel Lands Authority, the Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories unit at the Defense Ministry and in the Civil Administration, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the State Prosecutor’s Office which legalized all the theft.

The Deep State’s most potent factions have engineered the government’s “legal reforms” to perpetuate right-wing settler rule, further marginalize and subdue Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and impose a plan that is terrifying large segments of Jewish Israeli society.

Methods that Israel and the settlers have successfully employed against Palestinians are now being used in the process of undermining a large part of Jewish Israeli society.

The problem is that the reservists who are announcing that they’ll refuse to serve and the high-tech workers who are protesting have for years upheld the policy of land theft, based on a distortion of law and justice. The great majority of academics, lawyers, educators, economists and journalists have not come out en masse against the dystopian regime that Israel has established beyond the Green Line, nor do they connect it with the impending coup against which they are protesting now. Moreover, senior opposition leaders in the Knesset have continued to support laws against Palestinians even as they vociferously oppose the current government.

The spirit of the amendment to the Disengagement Law preceded the legislative blitz, and the amendment is an inseparable part of the blitz. Because the coup against the Israeli system of government is the ungrateful yet expected reward that the settlement enterprise – which has a Knesset – grants the State of Israel and its society for years of intimate cheek-to-cheek tango.