See the update on the bottom of the article.
The acquisition of two Arab properties in Hebron by Jews and the new owners’ subsequent eviction by Defense Minister Yaalon has placed current Israeli government in peril. The government has a razor thin majority of 61 parliamentary members and needs only 2 to sink it. Three MKs from the right have now stood up and pledged to vote against the coalition. Betzalel Smotritch, Ayoub Kara and Oren Hazan have now said they will not vote in favor of the coalition. Expect more to follow.
Responding to Ya’alon’s claim the residents were “intruders,” Smotrich blasted, “Intruders?! Residents who purchased homes at full price are intruding?! I listened to Bogie’s rhetoric against settlers in the interview and it’s just shameful.”
To understand how serious the situation is in relation to the government’s survival, it is important to grasp the role Hebron plays in the psyche of the Jewish nation. The Patricarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people are buried there and King David ruled there for the first 7 years of his Kingship. Hebron also had a contiguous Jewish presence (save for the crusader) until 1929 when the Arabs rioted, massacring nearly 70 individuals and driving the remainder from the city.
It was not until 1967 that Jews returned to Hebron. From the 1970’s onward the ancient Jewish community came back to life.
Since the beginning of the current security deterioration, Hebron and the surrounding area has suffered the majority of shooting, knifing, and rock throwing attacks. Four residents of Kiryat Arba/Hebron and the wider area have been killed. For one moment on Thursday, there was a sense that some good had come from all of the violence. The purchase of the two houses provided a relief to the despair.
Yaalon in Control
Yaalon’s actions are in direct contravention to basic property rights. In this case the Jewish buyers have all of the documentation necessary proving they bought the houses. In Israel, perfect documentation is needed because Arab sellers will often times change their mind under the fear of death.
Given the above fact, why would Yaalon spark a coalition crisis over two houses? The answer is simple…control. Yaalon has spent the better part of his professional military career watching the army shift out of the hands of the children and grandchildren of the Kibbutz movement and into the hands of the Religious Zionist camp. Although there are many shades of gray within the Religious Zionist movement, Hebron represents something beyond just settlements.
By allowing private purchases to change the landscape of Hebron the way they have in Jerusalem (not under Yaalon’s department) the turning point for the State of Israel would be complete. Control is about direction. Religious Zionism in all of its myriad of colors strives for the leadership of the State of Israel by both connecting it to its past and using that past as a road map for its future. Hebron, even more so than Jerusalem holds the keys to nation’s roots. Without Hebron the claim to any other part of Israel becomes shaky at best.
Hebron as the Symbol for National Liberation
The Zionist Revolution is more than a religious doctrine. In fact, it is one of the few national liberation struggles that has successfully born fruit in such a short amount of time. The return to Hebron has become a symbol for that return and stands on the frontlines of the Jewish Nation’s liberation struggle.
Surprisingly enough it was Ben Gurion himself who noted the importance of Hebron:
“we will make a great and awful mistake if we fail to settle Hebron, neighbor and predecessor of Jerusalem, with a large Jewish settlement, constantly growing and expanding, very soon. This will also be a blessing to the Arab neighbors. Hebron is worthy to be Jerusalem’s sister.”
Will the Government Fall?
Israeli politics has always been very unpredictable. The government is very shaky and one false move by anyone can easily shatter it. There is tremendous pressure due to the security situation for the government to act and act with an iron fist. The fact that it hasn’t done that and rather chose to focus on chasing after a small group of young settlers, while paying lip service to defending the Jewish people has begun to take its toll on the citizenry. Evicting Jews from building they lawfully bought may actually be the trigger for the government’s collapse.
Those of us that have been through many of these situations also know that the Prime Minister and Defense Minister are fully capable of walking back their actions if they sense a mortal blow about to occur. In the coming days as external threats pile up around Israel, the threat that the government may indeed collapse will grow. At that point the Prime Minister may in fact be left with no choice than to force the Defense Minister to unlock the doors to houses himself, or find a new line of work.
Bibi just said that although he supports the settlements, purchasers must respect the law and wait for approval. He hopes that happens soon. This is a vague statement and one wonders what will happen next or if he will really follow through. It would seem the ball is back in the corner of the young renegades. My assumption is that they will give Bibi some room to maneuver, but hold him to his word. Hebron is now on the front line and symbol of the future direction of the State of Israel.