Thursday, August 06, 2015

Everybody Loses in the Destruction of the Dreinoff Houses in Beit El

By Zevulun Orlev

A Parade of Losers

The destruction of the Dreinoff Houses in Beit El can only be described as a "lose-lose" situation. Not only is there no side which gained anything, every party to the events lost in a big way. First and foremost, "Eretz Yisrael" lost in that it was forced to suffer the destruction of homes. Just as we show our joy at the establishment of a new neighborhood in Eretz Yisrael with the blessing, "He who resets the boundaries for a widow," so we are pained by any destruction, even if it is only two houses, and even if they will be rebuilt. The settlement movement in Yehuda and the Shomron lost, in spite of the fact that they have a majority in the Knesset, in that they were not able to prevent the destruction, even though a formal building approval was obtained at the last minute. There is a fear that the precedent of the Dreinoff houses might pursue many other homes in the area of Yehuda and the Shomron.

The Israeli Supreme Court lost when it decided that "the the bulldozers will take precedence over the buildings," even though the building approval made many citizens of the country angry, including law-abiding citizens like me. This seemingly unfounded ruling carries with it the danger of weakening even further the trust of the public in the Supreme Court and the acceptance of its authority in political issues. The ruling will increase the pressure to change the method of choosing the judges in the court and will advance the idea of establishing a separate constitutional court system and other ideas whose purpose is to put limits on the authority of the Supreme Court.

The government lost in that its image has been tarnished further through no fault of its own. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister lost in that irrespective of their declaration opposing the destruction they did not have the authority to prevent it, and they were forced to deflect passionate criticism. The State of Israel lost when the world got a picture of the violent reaction to a Supreme Court ruling, and the compensation which the government was forced to pay by promising to build hundreds of other homes in Beit El, Jerusalem, and Yehuda and the Shomron because of the destruction of the two houses. And in fact this construction is not related at all to the existing affair of additional destruction of houses in Beit El.

The national coalition lost and was shaken when ministers and MK's within its ranks were guilty of passionate populism against the positions of the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, even though they knew full well that the ministers did not have the authority to block the destruction. The speakers did not hesitate to cynically utilize the situation in order to pursue political gains, and to enhance their personal and party popularity, even at the cost of public struggles among members of the security cabinet, who jointly share responsibility for the destruction. The state attorney's office also lost when it claimed, as was proper, that the Supreme Court should delay the destruction because the licensing situation had changed, and when its request was rejected on the spot.

The contractor Dreinoff lost in that large sums of money invested in the construction were written off, and he will in addition be fined for the cost of the destruction itself, about a million shekels. Some of the residents of Beit El lost when they objected to the construction out of considerations of protecting the environment, creating a neighbor's dispute that moved beyond the borders of the settlement. It is reasonable to assume that in the next round of this matter, the people will no longer dare to raise these issues, since nobody can be expected to listen to them anymore.

Another factor that suffered a loss was the strategy of violent opposition to the destruction in order to exact such a high price that the government will be deterred from further such actions even in the face of a decision by the Supreme Court. It is important to emphasize that the vast majority of the opposition shown was through actions that were completely legal and in line with democratic principles. Thus, the strategic loss was twofold: First of all, the violent physical friction did not accomplish its goal. Second, the unchecked violence caused great damage to the status of the settlements in Yehuda and the Shomron in the eyes of the sections of the nation which are not strong supporters of the settlements. We should remember that the destruction of Gush Katif was made possible, among other things, by the success of Prime Minister Sharon in forming a negative image of the settlers ("extremists, messianics, fanatics") and by delegitimizing the settlements, in order to accuse the settlers of power struggles and a refusal to accept the rule of law and the democratic process. Sharon and the press created an atmosphere in which there was a threat that the settlers were about to start a civil war, using live weapons. In this way, Sharon and his supporters were encouraged by a "wind blowing on their backs," based on broad public support for abandoning Gush Katif.

Strengthening the National Resolve

Indeed, in the last decade we achieved a deep understanding that an attempt to strengthen the national acceptance of the need for settlement activity and the creation of a broad consensus in support of the settlers are the most important ways to guarantee the future development of the settlements. The violent acts of a few dozen young people, even though it is not clear who instigated them and led them, brought us back by great strides and caused great harm to the possibility of convincing the people about the importance of the settlement activity. To "settle in the hearts of the people" is not an empty cliche but rather a main artery in the struggle for support of the settlements.

With the Drienoff affair, we have further eroded the vital principle of showing respect for the governmental authority and democratic ideals. Let us make it clear that even under the most trying circumstances we will not abandon our principles, and we will fight for our goals in every legitimate way. On the other hand, we must strongly oppose any use of force, violence, and rioting, and we must voice strong criticism for any cases of raising a hand or using verbal abuse against the country, its soldiers, its police, its judges, and its ministers. With such tactics we will never become the leaders of the county.

The only way to success will be based on advance planning. We must build, and build a lot, in a way that is not based on adventurous legal twists and turns. In this way, the above descriptions of loss will be transformed into "win-win" situations.

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