Which party will the ‘settlers’ choose?
By JOSH HASTEN
View from the Hill: My greatest hope is following the election, the residents of Judea and Samaria, along with all Israelis, will be safe and sound, as is our right, regardless of whom is steering the ship.
The transition seemed instantaneous. One minute the Israel Air Force was carrying out round-the-clock sorties against Hamas targets in Gaza as part of Operation Pillar of Defense, and the very next moment there was a negotiated cease-fire, an aborted ground operation, and the country was full swing into election mode.
With the January 22 elections just around the corner and the mudslinging already in full force, it’s time as residents of Judea and Samaria to take a step back and truly consider which party best represents our community’s interests.
Before you argue that us “settlers” shouldn’t just consider which candidate is best for Judea and Samaria but rather who is best for Israel as a whole, let me attempt to clarify my thoughts, specifically from a security perspective, while leaving all other internal issues aside.
With the disastrous ramifications of the 2005 Gaza withdrawal felt just last month with Tel-Avivians scurrying for cover from rocket fire, with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, our so-called peace partner, essentially spewing a blood-libel against Israel from the United Nations General Assembly podium, with Fatah coddling Hamas instead of dismantling it (didn’t we give Fatah guns and allow them US military training in order to fight the terrorists of Hamas?), what’s best for Judea and Samaria is what’s best for the entire country.
So here’s the relatively easy part for us “settlers”: Which parties should for sure not get our vote? All parties openly advocating either the dismantling of communities in Judea and Samaria, or even those who utter the phrase “painful concessions.” In other words, goodbye Meretz, Labor, Livni, Yesh Atid, and any other parties labeled center- left or Left primarily based on their positions when it comes to the peace process.
And let’s leave the haredi parties out of the discussion for now, even though I’m sure segments of our population living in places like Betar-Illit or Modi’in Illit who decide to exercise their right to vote are part of their constituency.
That essentially leaves us with Likud-Beytenu, Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, or perhaps the new Otzma LeYisrael party led by MK Aryeh Eldad, although according to the latest Jerusalem Post poll, released last week, Eldad’s party will not pass the two percent electoral threshold.
Those with relatively solid long-term memories are probably calling on me to “stop right there,” and add Likud to the above list of parties that shouldn’t even be considered. That’s because Likud Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his 2009 foreign policy speech at Bar-Ilan University, openly called for the establishment of “a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”
Likud was also at the helm during the evacuations from Gush Katif, Sinai, and most recently five buildings in Beit- El’s Ulpana neighborhood, as well as the 50-family Binyamin community of Migron. Netanyahu and his cabinet also issued the 10-month building freeze at the end of 2009, throughout Judea and Samaria, as a gesture to try and restart talks.
However, there are two counter-arguments. Number one, since they are predicted to win the most Knesset seats in the election, many would rationalize that it only makes sense to give the largest nationalist-leaning party as many votes as possible so that their ballots remain relevant, while simultaneously preventing an unlikely but still possible center-left upset.
In addition, some argue that the best way to insure the strengthening of communities in Judea and Samaria is to vote Likud-Beytenu and bolster those MKs within the parties who would pressure their leaders not to capitulate to the demands of the Palestinians and the international community on the issues of building and land transfers.
On the other hand, since many residents of Judea and Samaria feel betrayed by the various policies implemented by Likud and even the mention of the words “Palestinian State” makes many stomachs churn, the Bayit Yehudi has become the main alternative.
According to a very creative video released by the party via YouTube explaining its strategic positions, since a peace deal will never happen with the Palestinians, the alternative is for Israel to annex all of Area C, where there is already a strong Jewish majority, and give the Palestinians self-rule in Areas A and B.
The Arabs living in Area C would be given the option of citizenship on par with the Arabs living in Jerusalem, while at the same time Israel’s borders would be bolstered militarily in the Jordan Valley, and also surround Gaza in order to prevent terror attacks and immigration attempts by so-called Arab “refugees.”
While many view this plan as an acceptable alternative to Likud policies, there are surely those who feel it’s not enough. Therefore, Otzma LeYisrael might garner some more votes. According to the Otzma LeYisrael website, the party is calling for Israel to apply full civilian law in “all areas of the country from the Jordan to the Mediterranean... to cancel the Oslo Accords... and to dismantle the ‘security’ of the army of terrorists – ie PLO police.”
While those positions are surely in line with many residents’ ideologies, it seems for now that the formation of yet another party was a political blunder. Then again, this is Israel and a lot can happen within a month that could propel the party past the required two percent. And as election history has taught us since the founding of the state, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Without personally endorsing one party or another, my greatest hope is that once the dust has settled following the election, the residents of Judea and Samaria, along with all Israelis, will be safe and sound, as is our right, regardless of whom is steering the ship.