Friday, June 17, 2016

A Just "Arrangement" for Amonah – Do It now!

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"And Moshe said (to Yitro)... Come with us, and we will do good for you from the good that G-d will do for us" [Bamidbar 10:32].

"The fertile land of Jericho was 500 by 500 Amot, and it was not parceled out. They said, whoever builds the Temple on their land will take this plot. In the end, it was given to the offspring of Yitro, Yonadav Ben Rechev, as is written, 'And the sons of Keini, Moshe's father-in-law, came up from the City of Dates...'. [Shoftim 1:16]." [Rashi].

The Thirst for Expulsion

For the last few years a bitter struggle has been taking place between settlers in the region of Yehuda and the Shomron and the state's attorney's office with respect to passing an "Arrangement Law," whose purpose is to rescue a number of settlements, including hundreds of buildings, from the tragedy of another "disengagement" and to remove the ever-present threat of a Supreme Court ruling against them. The trigger of this article is the town of "Amona" and the current ruling, which demands that the settlement be removed by the first day of Chanukah next year, 5777. But Amona is not alone. It serves as a test-case in the tug-of-war between the rightist supporters of settlements and the radical left, which has a positive thirst for destroying the houses of the settlers. And caught in the middle you have the leftist Zionists and the centralist rightists (such as Netanyahu and Yaalon), who live in fear of the Hague conventions. (In talking to angry members of his party, Bibi explained why it is necessary to evacuate the settlements... He said, "I suggest you do not ignore the international court in the Hague." - See ynet, June 2012.)

What is this all about? Amona, for example (and the same was true of Migron, the Ulpana hill in Beit El, and other sites), was established with the active support of the state, and it was given government budgets to build on lands that did not belong to anybody. But prying "informers" managed to find people who claim to be the owners of some parts of the land. The state attorney's office, which is responsible for defending the government, plays into the hands of the plaintiffs and acts as "friends of nationalist leftists" instead of trying to propose some sort of compensation, or to make use of legal instruments such as "abandoned property" or other creative approaches. As far as I know, such arrangements are regularly proposed in property disputes within the "green line," but never within the "occupied territories," out of the fear of international agreements and a possible scolding by Obama. The Supreme Court is thus left without any alternative other than a decision to uproot the settlements!

Legal Arrangements

A proposal for a law has been sifting through the Knesset, in slightly different forms, for many years. The gist of the proposed law is that if a settlement was established by the government in an innocent process, and only years later the "original owners" turn up – then they will be compensated with alternative land "which will be as close as possible to their place of residence," in addition to financial compensation of 50% more than the original value of the land on the day it was expropriated. Such an arrangement is reasonable, moral, and proper, so much so that it can even be considered a "win-win" situation. It has no residual aspect of evil, as if to say, "Did you murder and also want to inherit from the victim?" And it does not consist of unfair removal from land which has been lying untouched for hundreds of year. As a result of the establishment of a settlement a decade or more earlier, the owners of the property and the anti-patriots will find out something they didn't know – that they have property rights for which they can get replacement land and a nice profit to boot. We note in passing thatin no place where the court forced settlement construction to be destroyed have the "owners" made any use of their "property," which remains in all cases as a landmark of destruction – merely weeds and desolation. If you are interested just look in the "Tales of the Arabian Nights" for the chapter on "transforming the ruins of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron into flowering Palestinian gardens."

The question of making an "arrangement law" is not legal but political. In fact, it is based on personal considerations. What is the position of the state's attorney within the scale of nationalistic feelings, and where are the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister? That is the essence of the law of an "arrangement." And now the status of the proposed laws has moved on to the realm of a new state's attorney, one who is fresh and does not have a leftist record. He also seems to correspond quite well to the fresh Minister of Defense, almost a hand-in-glove fit. The only remaining obstruction to making a law of this type would seem to be the Prime Minister himself, who might still have fears of the Hague. We stand on the sidelines wondering if he will force the Minister of Defense and perhaps the state's attorney to join him in blocking a law which is a worthy one at all levels. If so, the Prime Minister will be in danger of taking up the same position in our history as that of Arik Sharon.

Preventing Images of Destruction and Evacuation

Anybody who believes that settlers (not the "owners of the property") will evacuate their land for compensation is making a big mistake, as is clear from the precedent of Gush Katif and the decade of failure since then to provide adequate "compensation" to those who were expelled. In view of the fact noted above, that "Amona is not alone," lack of any just arrangement law will bring back the ghost of nightmares which we experienced during the "disengagement" in Katif.

I have one note for the new Minister of Defense: "Who knows if this is not the very reason for which you achieved your position?" (see Esther 4:14).

* * * * * *

In the Midrash quoted above brought by Rashi, the sages reported that an area of 500 by 500 Amot was expropriated for the area of the Temple. The people who gave up their land were offered a worthy reward: a replacement area of the same size, with the added value of its being in the fertile area of Jericho. You can read more about this matter and its significance as seen by the sages in my book, "Special Places as Viewed by the Sages," on the topic of "The Curse and the Sanctity of Jericho." The gist of the matter is that Jericho and Jerusalem are parallel to each other, something which is seen in the scents and the sounds of the Temple which reach as far as the city of Jericho ("rei'ach," scent, is part of the Hebrew name of the city.)

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