Home > Diplomacy, Settlement Freeze > Maariv feature documents “settlement freeze” sham

Maariv feature documents “settlement freeze” sham

Minister Katz

In a Yediot op-ed Thursday (May 6 2010) defense analyst Alex Fishman warned that the “settlement freeze” was a ticking time bomb that would derail diplomatic negotiations come September. In a feature for the Friday Political Supplement of Yediot’s competition, Maariv, Shalom Yerushalmi provided plenty of evidence for the assertion (full text at bottom.)

Touring the West Bank with Israel’s Transportation Minister, MK Yisrael Katz (Likud), Yerushalmi noted that the settlers he met were surprisingly happy:

They will benefit twofold [from the freeze]. They will have completed the old and will begin the new, this time, with no restrictions. Moreover, during the freeze, exceptions committees were formed which gave permits to all who needed (and after all, everyone needed) and paid compensation to anyone who was hurt. Is there a downside? No wonder that the large demonstrations that the settlers held last December opposite Netanyahu’s residence faded away. The protest tent opposite the Prime Minister’s Office was also dismantled with the same speed it was put up. At this rate, they will yet ask for another construction freeze period.

Katz then explained how this state of affairs was perfectly in line with Israeli government policy:

As far as Katz (55), a graduate of the Or Etzion high school yeshiva, is concerned, there is no problem or anything unusual going on. He believes in expanding the settlements, in connecting them to each other, in creating large blocs. At one of the observation points he went to, he promised to merge Karnei Shomron, Alonei Shilo, Yakir and the other settlements in the area into one large bloc numbering 30,000 settlers. “The Jews will continue to live here forever and ever, even in a peace agreement, no settlement will be removed,” Katz said. “Those who want peace have to compromise over this area.”

And that Netanyahu, even Obama, were on board:

Q: Is Netanyahu pleased with what you’re doing here?

“Yes. We agreed that in every place where there are building starts, they will continue. Everything is being done openly. If people want to hold negotiations with us, they shouldn’t pose preconditions.”

Q: President Obama won’t like to hear your pronouncements.

“An American president was elected. He has a different agenda, but he still views Israel as an ally. He knows that we are the only anchor he can depend on in all his battles against Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. On who else can he rely? On Egypt? Does anyone know what will happen there after Mubarak? On Saudi Arabia, where the terrorists came from who committed the terror attack on the World Trade Center? You need to have a lot of acumen in talking to the Americans, you need a lot of skill. Netanyahu has not removed a single settlement, he will renew construction in September, he will not freeze construction in Jerusalem. I tell you that in the end, the argument will not be over Karnei Shomron or Immanuel, and not even over Jerusalem.”

——

No freeze here

Shalom Yerushalmi, Maariv Friday Political Supplement, May 7 2010 [Hebrew original here]

In a week in which indirect peace talks were supposed to get underway, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz went on a tour of Samaria and mainly displayed great proximity to the settlers. At the same opportunity, he stuck a finger in the Palestinians’ eyes. “The construction momentum in Judea and Samaria is the same as when it was at its peak,” Katz announced happily to Likud activists in the settlement of Revava on Tuesday evening. “Thousands of housing units are being built everywhere. I never liked the freeze. Nobody in the security cabinet likes the freeze. It was a mistake. You can’t take people and freeze them. That is no solution. The government will ensure that the construction momentum will resume this September. In any case, I know that as far as I am concerned, there is no freeze.”Katz toured the settlements for an entire day to observe the great construction boom already taking place on the ground, precisely at a time that the state is trying to show the world that it is limiting construction. The freeze, it turns out, was simply an opportunity to unfreeze land and prepare it for construction. The government froze new houses but allowed the settlers to complete houses for which the foundations had been laid. The result on the ground is unimaginable. Thousands of settlers rushed to work on what they had begun, before any new edicts could arrive.

“The rabbis told us not to stop work. To continue to bang with the hammers, even on Yom Kippur,” relates Avi Cohen from Har Bracha, the chairman of the Likud branch in Samaria.

The freeze will end this September. Avi Cohen and his buddies will begin to build foundations. They will benefit twofold. They will have completed the old and will begin the new, this time, with no restrictions. Moreover, during the freeze, exceptions committees were formed which gave permits to all who needed (and after all, everyone needed) and paid compensation to anyone who was hurt. Is there a downside? No wonder that the large demonstrations that the settlers held last December opposite Netanyahu’s residence faded away. The protest tent opposite the Prime Minister’s Office was also dismantled with the same speed it was put up. At this rate, they will yet ask for another construction freeze period.

Sharon style

Everyone in Samaria is smiling. Sometimes openly, sometimes with a wink, usually with satisfaction. Even the claims, perhaps justified, about buildings that had become stuck in the middle, about money that had been lost, about unsuitable trailers in which entire families were crowded, about young couples who could find no place to live, bumpy access roads and all the rest—become lost in the face of this expansion enterprise, which appears to have no end. Minister Katz himself inaugurates roads there costing tens of millions of shekels as if there were no tomorrow, he renovates access roads and builds traffic circles in the style that he appears to have inherited from Ariel Sharon, with whom he worked for a long time in the 1980s.

The percentages always work in the settlers’ favor. On Monday, for example, building inspectors arrived at a Shavei Shomron neighborhood along with directors of the Civil Administration, and demolished six illegal temporary structures. Samaria Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika was quick to accuse Defense Minister Ehud Barak, “who wants to show the people in his party that he is doing something.” Barak is the man the settlers hate most at this time, as the person still poking a stick in the wheels of the trucks bringing the trailers, and here and there, stopping construction. “For me, he is a minister in the Palestinian Authority,” one settler woman from Revava told Katz.

In the afternoon, Katz went to Kedumim. Offsetting the six buildings destroyed in Shave Shomron, it immediately turned out that settlement secretary, Hananel Durani, is about to establish a new neighborhood in the   coming days, all legal and aboveboard. Durani, a deputy brigade commander in reserves, welcomed Katz in a eucalyptus grove at the entrance to Kedumim, hung a large map of the settlement on one of the trees and lectured to his guest military style, as if about to leave for a navigation exercise.  “We will build another 400 housing units in Kedumim,” he promised. “In a month, I’ll be bringing in the machines and building the northern neighborhood.”

“How many units,” Katz asked.

“56,” replied Durani.

“Are there foundations?”

“Yes.”

“Did the defense minister sign?”

“He did.”

“Very good, forward.”

He believes in expansion

As far as Katz (55), a graduate of the Or Etzion high school yeshiva, is concerned, there is no problem or anything unusual going on. He believes in expanding the settlements, in connecting them to each other, in creating large blocs. At one of the observation points he went to, he promised to merge Karnei Shomron, Alonei Shilo, Yakir and the other settlements in the area into one large bloc numbering 30,000 settlers. “The Jews will continue to live here forever and ever, even in a peace agreement, no settlement will be removed,” Katz said. “Those who want peace have to compromise over this area.”

Q: Where will the Palestinian state be established if all the settlements are expanded?

Katz: “We haven’t reached that stage yet. I say that there is enough room for everybody here. Look around. 90% of the land is empty. In the meantime, we are working inside the settlements. Nobody is creating new facts on the ground or building new settlements while there are negotiations going on. The settlements don’t get in the way of Palestinians’ continuing to live their lives. There is no contradiction.”

Q: Is Netanyahu pleased with what you’re doing here?

“Yes. We agreed that in every place where there are building starts, they will continue. Everything is being done openly. If people want to hold negotiations with us, they shouldn’t pose preconditions.”

Q: President Obama won’t like to hear your pronouncements.

“An American president was elected. He has a different agenda, but he still views Israel as an ally. He knows that we are the only anchor he can depend on in all his battles against Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. On who else can he rely? On Egypt? Does anyone know what will happen there after Mubarak? On Saudi Arabia, where the terrorists came from who committed the terror attack on the World Trade Center? You need to have a lot of acumen in talking to the Americans, you need a lot of skill. Netanyahu has not removed a single settlement, he will renew construction in September, he will not freeze construction in Jerusalem. I tell you that in the end, the argument will not be over Karnei Shomron or Immanuel, and not even over Jerusalem.”

Q: Then over what?

“I tell you that what decides in the end are the people who vote in the Knesset elections. If we want Israel to remain a Jewish state, we have to include the Israeli Arabs in the [peace] agreement. I say to an Arab citizen who lives in Israel: “it is inconceivable that you are a Palestinian and vote for the Knesset. You can continue to live with us, but vote somewhere else. You are a Palestinian? Vote for the Palestinian Authority. If you think you belong to the 1948 Arabs trapped in Israel, and you don’t recognize the flag or the symbol, there is no reason for you to vote for the Knesset.”

Q: So no Israeli Arabs would be able to vote for the Knesset?

“I didn’t say that. They have to decide. If you’re Israeli, accept the rights, including the right to vote. But also the obligations.”

Q: What do you intend to do?

“The Likud has to lead this. I’ve spoken to the prime minister a number of times about this. We will form a team to handle this. This is a critical matter.”

Q: Can you imagine the uproar this will generate now?

“Raed Salah, the leader of the northern chapter of the Islamic Movement, cannot enter Jordan, but in Israel, he does whatever he wants. A man like this should be thrown in jail, with or without hard labor. Look what they do in Egypt to people like him. They put them in cages. In Syria too. Only here is there a paradise for all the inciters. How is it that Ismail Haniya has three sisters married to Bedouins in the Negev?  Should these people decide the government in the Jewish state? Does that seem reasonable to you?”

Prepare, not remove

As of now, there is no place in Samaria where the Palestinian state appears a logical creation. The settlement Har Bracha began with 50 housing units, today it has 250 units. The settlement Kfar Tapuah has doubled itself. Katz inaugurated a new access road there this week, under heavy security. The demand for apartments is rising, along with prices. Katz says that the freeze also led to a larger Jewish presence in new and unexpected places. The young people who did not find places in the established settlements went to live in outposts. In the meantime, the state has not removed a single outpost and Katz says “the trend is to prepare the ground, not to remove.”

The town limits of the settlement Itamar, for example, are larger than those of Netanya. The settlers would like to see this settlement expand to the Jordan Valley, but in the meantime, there are only a few dozen families there and a few yeshivas. The system is to seize the surrounding hills and to connect them one day. And so, on every rocky hill, over an enormous area, live a few families. The most famous hill is that of Avri Ran, a controversial figure who built a successful farm for organic milk products on one of the hilltops. In recent weeks, as part of the intense PR campaign being conducted by the Samaria settlement leaders among celebrities, Avri Gilad, Yonit Levy and Yair Lapid visited the farm.

And if this were not enough, Katz promised the settlers this week that he would build them a railroad network that will crisscross the length and breadth of Judea and Samaria. It turns out that this is not a new story. When it was decided to build the new train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv beyond the Green Line, the National Union demanded compensation for the Palestinians in the form of trains in their territory. This refers to trains that that would go from Haifa to Jenin and cross the West Bank toward Beit Shean, with branches for a train line leaving from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Mike Blatt, the deputy attorney general, made a promise on the matter to the European Union. Last April there was even a comprehensive discussion in Amman on building the infrastructure among representatives of the EU, which would fund the project, with the Transport Ministries of Israel and Jordan.

The trains fired the imagination of the journalists and the settlers, who today fantasize about a million people deluging the area. Not all of them, of course, are happy about any Palestinian passengers, and hope, in their heart of hearts, that they will remain outside the cars, for security reasons. Katz himself, incidentally, talks today also about a train that will leave Port Said for Jordan and Iraq, and on the way, go through the Negev. […]

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