This week I attended the 4th Sovereignty Conference at the Crown Plaza in Jerusalem. It’s ironic that the conference addressed the issue of sovereignty in the Land of Israel with a focus on Judea and Samaria. For 69 years since the creation of the State of Israel its own citizens still debate the pros and cons of secure borders. Even after the Regulation Law was passed in the Knesset this week legalizing 4,000 homes in Judea and Samaria, many have turned their eyes to the Supreme Court in hopes that it can be overturned. And until recently, the official policy of our government was denying its own sovereignty. Jerusalem is in question, the return of the Golan Heights will be discussed in final negotiations with the Syrian government, we dismantled Aza and continued to chip away at Judea and Samaria. And make no mistake; Yesh Din, B’tselem, Peace Now and their many associates view their success in Amona and Givat Zev as only the beginning and the Regulation Law as only a minor obstacle.
Then one needs to ask how it is possible that some want sovereignty now while others are either unsure, prefer it at a future date or not at all. Why would anyone want certain citizens to be denied basic rights that the rest enjoy?
To understand this we need to look at the various stages the Jewish people have gone through in the last century. Theodore Herzl said in Basel Switzerland during the first Zionist Conference held in 1897, “At Basel I founded the Jewish State…Perhaps in 5 years, and certainly in 50 everyone will know it”. Herzl and his peers were dreamers. They had a dream and works to see its fruition. Fifty years later out of the ashes of the Holocaust, David Ben-Gurion declared Statehood in May of 1948. Now that the dream was realized, there immediate responsibility was to build. We were responsible to build roads, hospitals, schools, an army, housing, agriculture and more. For the next fifty years we developed the most advance country in history. But now that the country is built and the dream actualized how are we to characterize the next fifty years? I would like to suggest that the next fifty years will be devoted to creating an identity. What is the spirit of the country and people? The underlining principle is discovering who we really are as a nation. It is the people that define whether a country is great and greatness means moral responsibility towards one another. In many ways this is the greatest challenge of all and the potential reward or missed opportunity will determine the future of Israel as a State. Each one of us at some point will require introspection and a look at the long term picture and how we fit. For the first time we will have to learn to live together like a family including religious, secular, old, young, men and women from all four corners of the world. If we can realize our common destiny then sovereignty will answer itself. In order to achieve these lofty end goals we will have to address more basic issues along the way like educating the public on why sovereignty is important and necessary for all citizens and its short and long term benefits.
There are two stories that have sparked my attention in recent weeks. But my decision to write a new post was a result of the overall condemnation of the Obama administration for absenting from a U.N vote that would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem” and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
The first story which received almost no attention in Israel is the Levy Report that addresses the legal status of the communities in Judea and Samaria that was ironically initiated by Binyamin Netanyahu and shelved days before the U.N vote. The second and more urgent story is a community called Amona.
The Levy Report was designed to address what policy the government of Israel should adopt regarding communities in Judea and Samaria. The report concludes briefly, “that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation and that the Israeli settlements are legal under international law. It recommends the legalization of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts by the state and provides proposals for new guidelines for settlement construction”(Wikipedia). Currently the Israeli citizens that live in those communities are required to pay tax, work and serve in the army. But these communities have done much more. They are model citizens, proactive, who believe in good for all. They contribute to the benefit of the whole nation in every aspect and Amona is one such community. As an off shoot of Ofra, it was built with the help of the Israeli government. Amona is made up of families that wanted a less urban feel. What bothers me is that Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria are treated like second class citizens. They don’t get the same benefits from Bituach Leumi, get second rate service by Bezeq, Israel electric, Egged and the list goes on. When someone buys a fridge in Netanya, the charge to delivered in 180 NIS. If it needs to be delivered to Avnei Chefetz which is the same distance but over the green line, 500 NIS. Soldiers who are injured do not receive any benefits as seen in the story of Yehuda Yitzhak HaYisraeli. Amona is another tragic story where the government led by Netanyahu and the Supreme Court of Israel vote daily to destroy Amona at all cost.
But all of sudden the Israeli government and Jewish loby groups are up in arms because the U.S. absented from a vote in the United Nations. Every major Jewish lobby group in the world is all of a sudden finding purpose and self worth. The Israeli government led by Binyamin Netanyahu votes every day against (not absenting) its Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria and shall we not forget Gush Katif.
I like Obama because he gave health care to millions of American citizen who would otherwise die or suffer bankruptcy without coverage. And he fought to remove guns from the streets of America. That’s called doing good work for Americans. Maybe its time that the Israeli government start by taking care of its own and stop blaming others for absenting.