Time to privatize Judea and Samaria settlement building.
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post.
OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon has done it again. You may recall that Alon was the "senior military official," who as commander of the Judea and Samaria Division blamed the massacre of the Fogel family in March 2011 on undefined acts of vandalism in Arab villages allegedly carried out by Israelis.
He also told The New York Times that he disagreed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's view that Hamas's takeover of Gaza following Israel's withdrawal demonstrated that a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be reckless in the extreme.
Over the past four months Alon has been criticized for his refusal to take actions to end the massive proliferation of terror attacks against Jews in Judea and Samaria. For months Alon ordered IDF soldiers to stand down as Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs at them and at civilians. He set rules of engagement that are so restrictive that soldiers are better off running away from Palestinian mobs than defending themselves and Israeli civilians.
After Adele Biton, a three-year-old girl, was critically wounded when her mother's car was stoned, and as online videos proliferated of IDF soldiers fleeing from assaults, and of Israeli civilians being beaten and assaulted on the roads with firebombs, rocks and bullets, the media finally began reporting on the terror surge. Public pressure mounted for Alon to finally take action or be fired from his post.
You might think that given public scrutiny of his failures Alon would keep a low profile. But he hasn't.
On Tuesday he spoke to a group of foreign journalists and diplomats and said that in his "professional" opinion, if we don't start negotiations with the Palestinians soon, we are likely to see an escalation of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.
Alon's claims deserve scrutiny because they expose just how deeply his political views impede his ability to understand and competently perform his duties. Alon disclosed that the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements is the group behind the riots and the attacks on Israeli civilians and military forces. The group, he revealed, is bankrolled by the Palestinian Authority.
According to Alon, out of respect for US Secretary of State John Kerry's attempts to renew peace talks, the PA suspended the group's funding. He explained that this PA decision has led to a steep drop in terror attacks.
Alon said that the PA has kept its funding cutoff - like the funding itself - secret. He attributed the PA's silence to its leaders' modesty and moderation.
In his words, "They weren't looking for diplomatic recognition for the move but rather for the territory to quiet down."
Alon also mentioned that PA security forces are involved in stone and firebomb attacks on Israelis.
He warned that if Kerry's attempts to start peace talks between Israel and the PLO fail, then Palestinian terror will get worse. In his words, "If, in a few weeks, the attempt of the American involvement will go [away] with nothing, I'm afraid that we will see this trend of escalation even strengthening."
The implications of Alon's revelations are obvious.
The supposedly grassroots groups of local rioters - including children - attacking IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians with bullets, firebombs and stones are not at all independent or grassroots.
They are wholly owned and operated franchises of the PA. And the ones leading the attacks are the US-trained Palestinian security services.
Most people would take these two pieces of information and conclude the PA is an enemy entity engaged in a massive and sustained terror campaign against Israeli forces and civilians. But Alon missed this. Alon revealed the secret PA funding of the rioters to prove its moderation by also revealing that the funding was temporarily suspended.
Alon's strategy for dealing with the violence is not to do his job - deploy forces judiciously to defend the country and its citizens from our enemies.
His strategy is to pressure the government to surrender to all of the PLO's territorial and political demands.
Because that is Kerry's peace plan.
Since he entered office in February, Kerry has come here nearly half a dozen times to force Israel to accept all of the PLO's preconditions for negotiations.
These include an agreement in principle that in the framework of a peace deal, Israel will surrender to the PLO all of Judea, Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem and expel the 550,000 Jews living in these areas from their homes. They also include a complete and continuous abrogation of Jewish property rights in Judea, Samaria and eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem, and the release of Palestinian terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons.
It ought to go without saying that there is no connection between military affairs and Alon's positions, and his ideological blindness to basic strategic realities renders him unfit for duty.
But it doesn't go without saying. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon continues to support Alon despite his ideologically induced incompetence.
Alon is just one - albeit an important one - of many unelected public officials whose actions stand opposed to his responsibilities, to the public interest and to the official policies of the government.
Take Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein. A year ago today, a committee of distinguished jurists led by retired Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy submitted a report to the government on the legal status of construction in Judea and Samaria. The Levy Report was not a radical document. All it did was set out the legal basis for the positions that have been adopted by every Israeli government since 1967. Like every single government since 1967, the Levy Report stated that Judea and Samaria do not fit under the international legal definition of territories under belligerent occupation, and as a consequence, the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply, and Israeli communities in these areas are completely legal and legitimate.
Weinstein is supposed to serve as the legal adviser to the government. But in the case of the Levy Report, and not only in this case, he acted instead as a political commissar. He abused his legal position to intimidate the government not to adopt the findings of a committee it impaneled, and whose recommendations were aligned with its own stated positions.
Post-Zionists like Alon and Weinstein, like their comrades on the Supreme Court and in the media, are intimidating enough on their own.
But their subversive behavior is supported by the US and the EU. Kerry's obsessive focus on forcing Israeli concessions to the PLO, like the EU's decision to support of an economic boycott of Israeli exports, strengthens the position of radicals like Alon and Weinstein. They make it all but impossible for the government to implement its own policies.
In many respects, Netanyahu has given in to these pressures. Not only has he overseen the appointment of post-Zionists like Alon and Weinstein.
By appointing Tzipi Livni to serve as justice minister and the minister responsible for negotiations with the PLO, he has ensured that nothing will be done to remedy the phenomenon of radicals being promoted to positions where they can undermine the policies of the government.
Moreover, as Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel acknowledged this week, due to the confluence of foreign pressure and the empowerment of post-Zionists in the public sector, the government is not respecting Jewish property rights in Jerusalem. It is banning construction for Jews in the capital by preventing planning committees from convening to approve building plans.
Netanyahu is using similar administrative tools to enact an undeclared freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.
In taking these actions, Netanyahu is betting - probably correctly - that he will not be forced to surrender Judea and Samaria, because Mahmoud Abbas will never agree to negotiate with Israel.
Under Abbas's leadership, Palestinian society has been so radicalized that there is no Palestinian constituency that supports peace with Israel. So, too, the Islamic world has become so radicalized since US President Barack Obama came into office that there is no regional support whatsoever for a Palestinian decision to recognize Israel.
While Netanyahu's policies may allow him to survive Obama's second term without irrevocably destroying the country, on the ground, the lives of Israel's citizens are not being defended, and their legal and civil rights are being trampled.
Ariel, like Bayit Yehudi party leader Minister Naftali Bennett, doubtlessly wishes to end this state of affairs. But so far, their efforts in this area have been limited to calling for the government to change its policies. They and like-minded government ministers have the power to fix this situation.
And the time has come for them to act.
The Levy Report provides several recommendations for respecting the legal rights of Jews in Judea and Samaria. There is no reason for the government not to implement these recommendations - even without formally adopting the report.
The report's main recommendation is to take the government out of the zoning process. The property and civil rights of Jews in Judea and Samaria must be accorded the same respect as those of all Israelis, regardless of the political views of appointed officials or foreign governments.
Local councils and municipalities in Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem's municipal government, should have the power to approve building plans within their municipal boundaries.
To bring about this, the government must remove the Interior Ministry from the zoning process in Jerusalem. The government should not have the power to convene or block the convention of local planning boards.
As for Judea and Samaria, the sale of private land should not require the approval of the civil administration.
And in accordance with the recommendations of the Levy Report, a land registry should be established and anyone with legal title to land should be required within three to five years to register his holdings or lose his ownership rights.
So, too, in keeping with the Levy Report, Israeli courts should be empowered to adjudicate land ownership disputes in Judea and Samaria. The government's position on land disputes should be determined only after the disputes are adjudicated in properly constituted courts of law.
Beyond the Levy Committee's recommendations, to further privatize the field, as is the case in the rest of the country, state land that is within the boundaries of recognized communities should become the property of the communities, not the state.
Since 1967, the Israelis who support Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria based their actions on the assumption that the government is interested in securing Jewish rights. Certainly after the government forcibly expelled the Jews of northern Samaria and Gaza from their homes, this assumption is unjustified. With the empowerment of ideologically driven radicals like Alon and Weinstein to key positions it is downright ridiculous.
Rather than expect the government to act as a partner or a defender, we should simply demand that it serve as a neutral facilitator, and privatize settlement activities. Only by taking the government out of local planning and zoning councils, focusing efforts on buying private land and establishing a land registry for Judea and Samaria, while requiring land disputes to be adjudicated by properly constituted courts, can Israelis secure their property and civil rights.
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