The Ulpana Homes: 4 Ideas for a Sane Government Policy

From Rachel Sylvetsky,

If it weren’t so sad, the Ulpana saga could be a farce about governments who do not govern, leaders afraid to lead and Peace Now, whose cackles may turn to dismay. And, how will Netanyahu be judged by history? 4 ideas for a sane policy in Yesha .
I live in Israel. I love it. I have never regretted my decision to move here. One sunrise out my Jerusalem window, one walk among the throngs going to the Western Wall on a holiday, is enough to make any Jew turn into a Zionist, and maybe even a poet.

And while it is said that the country lives from minute to minute, held together by rubber bands and glue, it is also true that the glue is of the super variety, and has withstood a 2000 year pressure test.

The Ulpana saga, however, has brought other characteristics of the Jewish state to the fore and they are pulling on the glue that holds its seams together.

What seems to be lacking here is the proverbial Jewish head, the yiddisher kup. This is not my discovery. It was Abe Rosenfeld, late editor of the NY Times, who wrote on the day the Oslo Accords were signed that they prove the anti-Semites wrong – Jews are not smarter than other people.

IQ points we have here in abundance. But it is what is termed “saychel”, common sense and “chochma”, straight thinking, that our governing bodies seem to lack.

And when it comes to government taking the long view? Planning? Perhaps Israeli PM’s and ministers should wear firemen’s uniforms, because they are constantly putting out fires – except for when they set them. So bring out the rubber bands and glue. That’s how the place is run.

How else can one explain the totally avoidable Ulpana demolition tragi-farce? Let’s take a closer look (not an exhaustive in-depth analysis for lack of space), and you can decide when to laugh, when to cry and when to gnash your teeth.

1:The IDF reunites Judea and Samaria and all of Jerusalem with the Jewish state in 1967, a miracle for which we can never thank G-d enough. Brave Israeli soldiers pay for it with their lives, but the graves prepared for the country’s civilians remain unused.

2: The government, knowing that strategically, historically – and legally [see the San Remo Conference] – this area belongs to Israel to begin with, encourages Jews to return to this biblical heartland, Hundreds of thousands move there. For the most part, they build on state land. The left fights the settlement movement to no avail, because Zionism is still running the show in both Labor and Likud. Terror strikes a barbaric and tragic toll.

But – Instead of making a long term decision and placing the area under Israeli sovereignty, these hundreds of thousands face a hybrid administration where Jews are subject to Israeli law vis a vis income tax, for example, but not vis a vis land disputes, and an impossible situation where a military administration runs the area for 45 years – and the government allows Palestinian Arabs to file suit in Israeli courts over land disputes as they have nowhere else to go (Jordan relinquished all claim to the area) – and the Defense Minister can do as he pleases. Farcical, ridiculous, and non-sensical.

The current Defense Minister destroys unauthorized homes and caravans in the middle of the night, cruelly turning traumatized children out into the cold. He doesn’t sign building permits for the buildings that are legal and just lack his signature.

For his own political ends? He has a breakaway leftist party to build and seems to have gotten a carte blanche building permit for that edifice from the Prime Minister, who has turned a blind eye to what Ehud Barak does and how he sets about it.

Suggestion 1: Annex Area C in Judea and Samaria, where all the Israelis and only 4% of the Palestinian Arabs live.

Is that not possible, Prime Minister Netanyahu? Then at least start with

Suggestion 2: Put an end to the Defense Minister’s dictatorship over housing in Judea and Samaria and give the mandate to a fairly constituted government committee.

The story continues:

3: At the time of the Oslo Accords, Israel stops building new communities, and allows outposts to be built outside existing ones, with the tacit understanding that they would be attached to them or otherwise legalized. The US demands their evacuation, starting with those created after March 21, 2001. Israel agrees to 12, doesn’t do it as the PA turns peace talks into a bad joke.

4: Ariel Sharon gives leftist lawyer Talia Sasson the job of checking out the legality of the outposts in 2005 and she, unsurprisingly, terms many of them illegal in a now infamous report. That helps Sharon set the atmosphere for Gush Katif and also sets the next stage for the next round in the leftist war against Jews in Judea and Samaria.

5: Peace Now and other leftist NGO’s are given new life by European, and possibly NIF, funds. They know very well that land purchases are secret deals in order to protect the sellers’ lives, they also know that some of the land ownership is hard to trace, and that mistakes have been made in good faith – and that there has also been unauthorized building in certain areas under the aforementioned method of granting building permits.

They also realize that they cannot get people out in the streets to protest that Jews living in Judea and Samaria are obstacles to peace. The intifada’s suicide bombers and Gazan rockets have made most Israelis cynical about the chances for peace and its connection with Jews living in Judea and Samaria.

This is the time for a sane policy to be put in force. One that doesn’t lead to pitting Jew against Jew, one that doesn’t leave children crying as their homes are destroyed.
The Arabs and leftist NGO’s also know the lack of checks and balances here. They know that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Aharon Barak set a pattern of trying to rule the country rather than leaving it to the elected executive and legislative branches (how and why is beyond the scope of this article) They know that the Supreme Court – especially with its old boy’s club, universalist outlook and leftist composition – is the place to go.

They start to investigate possible questionable acquisitions or unauthorized building, (an unbelievably rampant problem among Bedouin and Arabs, but this does not interest them. It’s not the law they want to uphold, it’s the Jews they want to get rid of).

PA Arabs don’t want to recognize Israel by going to its magistrate’s courts, they go right to the Supreme Court which doesn’t have a mandate to investigate land ownership claims. The Supreme Court, instead of saying that it will not deal with these issues, and sending them to a lower court that does investigate claims, accepts these cases and makes decisions.

Suggestion 3: Now that there is a new Chief Justice, remind him that land disputes need investigation, and that is the job of magistrate’s courts.

This is the time for a sane policy to be put in force. One that doesn’t lead to pitting Jew against Jew, one that doesn’t leave children crying as their homes are destroyed.

Suggestion 4: Create a long term government policy from now on that decrees that if homes are built on land whose ownership is disputed years later, the homes remain standing and the owner is compensated or given other state land in exchange. No other possibilities are available for claimants.

Former governments could be blamed for allowing these instances to happen. (Politicians are good at that) The cutoff date for eligibility for this policy should be the day it is instituted. Anything built illegally or on disputed land after that date is demolishable.

The present Likud government has actually accepted a policy on land disputes, but it is one that will rend the country asunder and set Yesha ablaze. It is that homes built on state lands are to be authorized (hence the three communities that were just authorized by Netanyahu’s government), but homes on disputed private or unknown-ownership lands are not to be authorized– and are therefore, expendable.

People, however, are not expendable, so that while the first half of the sentence is a logical statement, the second half ignores the fact that private land has been purchased, some of it from fraudulent sellers, some of it secretly to guard the seller’s life, and land of unknown ownership can be expropriated as state land.

6: Some of the land for the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El is bought from an Arab at some point, but houses are built without authorization. Families move there in good faith.

The “owner” is not going to live there, inside Beit El and surrounded by Israelis, and he is not going to farm there either- for the same reason. He is just going to try to get those houses destroyed.
Helped by Peace Now, a new “owner” (the case is out on who the real owner is, but they have the same name and he claims the sale was fraudulent) suddenly wants the land on which permanent houses were built. His ownership claims are accepted by a PA court and he registers the land in his name as a result.

The “owner” is not going to live there, inside Beit El and surrounded by Israelis, and he is not going to farm there either- for the same reason. He is just going to try to get those houses destroyed.

And instead of the government standing strong and saying this is an unreasonable request to fulfill, even though the land is his (maybe) and the construction unauthorized, and that monetary or territorial compensation is what is needed, a tragic farce is allowed to take place.

The role of the villain is played by the government’s legal representatives, called praklitut hamedinah, either inadvertently or on purpose (they are a leftist stronghold), who, when the court convenes to hear the case of PA claimant against the state, actually say that they are willing to destroy the homes because of their new policy (see above) in regard to private Arab land.

There is a government Committee for Settlement Affairs that must know that this is happening. One cannot say here that the ‘right’ hand does not know what the ‘left’ hand is doing However, it does not react.

The Supreme Court gives the order to demolish in a year. Case closed.

Meanwhile, the ownership issue is still being fought in the Magistrate’s Courts.

The praklitut does not bother to go to see what it is they blithely agreed to destroy, probably picturing a few caravans, not permanent apartment buildings.

But when all hell breaks loose, Netanyahu realizes that letting DM Barak send babies out into the freezing cold in the middle of the night in Migron (the houses were built without permits, it is true) is nowhere near as bad as destroying five apartment buildings in the midst of an established town.

7: The praklitut is sent back to the Supreme Court to ask to reopen the case, but that body refuses to reconsider a decision made a year earlier that would open a Pandora’s box. The judges will not turn themselves into a laughingstock-with-a-precedent, they say.

But they should have refused to accept the case in the first place, shouldn’t they have?

And how history is going to judge Netanyahu – on the basis of his not inconsiderable international and economic achievements or on whether he kept his word to voters or cared about ordinary citizens – only time will tell, but he realizes the damage an Amona style fight will cause him right now.

And he doesn’t want to demolish houses in Yesha. He does not work according to the Sasson report guidelines, give him credit for that. He has let Barak be the bad guy until now, and no one really knows quite why.

What is definite is that the praklitut has caused a disastrous situation.

Expelling a few families who built unauthorized caravans or even private homes is one thing, but this is to be large scale destruction in the middle of an established town.

Israelis are not serfs and the government looks ridiculously incompetent when illegal arab building is all over Area C, East Jerusalem, the Negev and the Galilee. The PM desperately suggests moving the houses to state land nearby at government expense. The residents reject the idea.

Had suggestion 4 been clearly enunciated government policy, the praklitut would have treated the lawsuit differently. Now that the ‘owner’ has a court decision in hand, however, he does not have to accept compensation and he doesn’t.

How history is going to judge Netanyahu – on the basis of his not inconsiderable international and economic achievements or on whether he kept his word to voters or cared about ordinary citizens – only time will tell.
The Knesset does not pass the nationalist’s suggested law that would not allow demolishing buildings that are not on land not contested for four years after construction. Implementing this law would be logically problematic because Israeli real estate law is not sovereign in Judea and Samaria (remember?).

Netanyahu claims the law would bring out the heavy guns of the International Court at the Hague. He fights it successfully.

The law’s proponents fear that there are other lawsuits lurking behind the scenes.

Adopting suggestion 4 is urgent: From now on, for structures built before 2012, the only compensation Arab claimants in similar cases can receive is monetary or equivalent state land.

In addition, the Supreme Court should not accept these cases, magistrate courts must deal with the claims and fix the appropriate compensation.

The praklitut, whose job is representing the government, is to coordinate its responses to the courts with government policy.

And what will happen to the Ulpana homes? Will they remain standing, be moved or be demolished? Will brother be pitted against brother if ‘fire’ breaks out and the glue melts? Will the children and youth witness demolition, weakening the bands attaching them to this country?

One positive note: the government’s honoring its promise to build 300 homes on the nearby state land to which it wishes to move the existing five, would show Peace Now that finding “owners” and demolishing homes doesn’t pay numerically – except for the dubious “satisfaction” of watching Jews expelled from their homes..

And that promised construction is the only result that might serve as connecting glue for the idealistic citizens of Israel who make their homes on Givat HaUlpana.

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