I wasn't there -- since I'm in London this week on business, yet I probably wouldn't have gone to the demonstration even if I was home.
The settlement freeze has multiple aspects to it. Netanyahu believes that freezing the settlements will give him the political maneuverability needed for Israel's strategic interest of attacking Iran's nuclear program. He has managed to convince many of the senior Likud ministers, even the most right-wing among them, such as Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon and Benny Begin, that the while ideologically abhorrent, its a necessary evil. That's from a strategic point of view.
And then there's the tactical aspect -- or more specifically, the small minded politics that hurt people for the sake of moving to the top, at the expense of others.
That's Ehud Barak.
While the inner cabinet decided on the freezing of "new" buildings, Barak let loose his inspectors on anything being constructed, despite "legal" within the framework of the cabinet decision. Barak wants to appear as heavy handed against the settlers, not because he believes it will help Israel's security, but because it will increase his standing among the more leftist elements within the Labor party. Border policemen beating up settlers is good press for Ehud Barak.
While the rest of the government ministries refused to cooperate by providing "inspectors" to help the Defense Ministry in its quest to freeze settlements (under the leadership of Ehud Barak), only one ministry agreed to help. The Agricultural Ministry...not surprisingly under the control of MK Shalom Simhon...also from the Labor party.
So the over-zealous inspectors show up, accompanied by brutal Yassam policemen, to settlements throughout the West Bank/Yehuda v'Shomron. My 13 year old daughter recounted to me when the inspectors showed up at the settlement where she goes to high school.
"The inspectors didn't come through the front gate, they came through a back gate to the settlement. Our principal shouted at us to run to that direction, and we scrambled through yards to get there. He got there first, and was assaulted immediately by policemen -- even though he didn't actually do anything. They grabbed him, ripped his shirt, threw him to the ground. One high school girl ran to film what was happening with her video camera -- the police grabbed her, and yanked her to the ground by her hair, and grabbed her video camera.This is exactly the type of press that Barak wants to help him continue leading the Labor party.
It was terrible."
I don't think that Netanyahu wants to see this sort of press, and probably had much more modest ideas about the housing freeze -- but with Barak around, the situation will always lean towards violence against settlers.
Tonight's demonstration is good for Netanyahu to prove to the US Administration that a freeze in really in the works.
So what should we do?
1. There's no reason (in my opinion) to put up any fight against the stupid inspectors coming to issue official "freeze" orders. Rather, every settlement should have an electric paper shredder available -- and as the orders are dispensed, they should immediately go straight to the shredder. I doubt the police will beat anyone up for that (though with Barak at the helm, its hard to say).
2. Why help Netanyahu with a demonstration? We should continue to build, and wherever possible, challenge the government in court.
3. Continue to pressure government representatives and make the feel the pain of a settlement freeze -- and how people didn't vote Likud to enact policies of Ehud barak and the Labor party.
4. Here's an idea -- have a demonstration at a Tel Aviv building site to prevent building THERE. Let people know that its racist to prevent building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, simply because we're Jews.
And then -- this happens. Its not enough to Ehud Barak to freeze our buildings -- he tries to demoralize us as well.
The Pesagot community near El-Bireh was just informed that the IDF unit guarding it -- will be leaving, with no replacement. YNET reports:
Residents of the settlement of Psagot have been living in relative calm for years now. In the early years of the al-Aqsa intifada, the community, which is located next to Ramallah, suffered from attacks from Palestinians living in the area. In order to restore peace to the area, the IDF decided to station a company of reserves soldiers to secure the community. Psagot residents now fear deterioration in the security situation in their community, following an announcement by Binyamin Division Commander Colonel Aviv Reshef, that the company would leave the site in a week's time, without having any other body take its place.
Mateh Binyamin Regional Council security officer Avigdor Shatz told Ynet the move constitutes a real threat to the lives of the residents. "The meaning of such a move is that a community which is located at a very serious point of friction with the hostile Palestinian population of Ramallah is left without a significant military force meant to separate between it and the residents of the settlement. Despite the relative calm of recent years, shooting incidents at the town are recorded each day."
The residents of the community were enraged by the decision and claim they are being picked on by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "While he finds a budget to pay for inspectors to enforce the construction freeze in settlements, he can't find the money to preserve the safety of the residents and is abandoning us," a Psagot source said.
The next ten months are going to be difficult for the settlers.Yet the upcoming preemptive IDF strike on Iran is going to make all our lives even more challenging.
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