Is Palestine in the Works?

Betzalel Smotritch of Bayit Yehudi, a member of Netanyahu’s government took to Facebook yesterday to slam the Prime Minister into working with the Trump administration in setting up the circumstances for a Palestinian State.

“In recent weeks, there have been too many indications that the Prime Minister is quietly cooking up a process that will lead to the establishment of Palestine. All this talk about a ‘deal’ and a regional peace conference, the freezing of construction outside the blocs (those who do not build outside the blocs essentially say that the State of Israel is not going to remain there), and the reports about a ‘deal’ that Trump proposed to Abbas for negotiations in return for a construction freeze; reports in Haaretz on contacts between Netanyahu and Herzog to establish a unity government based on the renewal of the ‘political process’; Netanyahu’s desire to build an ‘Iran bypass route’ with moderate Arab states in which the price Israel will have to pay in order to build this axis will be on the settlement front.”

Smotritch is referring to Trump’s desire to find a workable solution to the perceived Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a regional understanding with the “moderate” Sunni States. The regional solution is something Netanyahu has long advocated for. With Trump’s past hints that this is indeed in the works and his envoy Jason Greenblatt in Israel working on an understanding with Israel on future building within Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, there appears to be some truth to Smotritch’s claims.

In fact, Trump seems to be far more open on the regional avenue.  In a meeting with Saudi defense minister, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump expressed his “strong desire” to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

How Does Trump’s Vision Differ From Previous Administrations?

It is clear now that Trump views an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord as vitally important, yet the contours of that agreement remain sketchy.  Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt has done the unprecedented by meeting with leaders from Judea and Samaria during his trip to Israel and Jordan. Whatever the contours, it is clear that the approach is very different from before.  In the past a regional approach had meant that in exchange for destroying flourishing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in order to create Palestine, the “moderate” Sunni states would make peace with Israel.  Trump’s vision seems to be different. By not demanding a peace agreement based on the 1948 armistice lines it shifts the paradigm between Israel and the Arab states to something new. The shift is necessary, because without assurances that no Jewish community will be dismantled for “peace” Trump knows Netanyahu will not be able to pass a peace deal in the Knesset.

If Trump changes the focus of a potential accord between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the likelihood of a Palestinian State significantly increases.  Of course, the Palestinian State envisioned may be far closer to Luxembourg than Lebanon and if that’s the case then whose to say the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria and Jordan will go for it.


Hebron and the Fall of Israel’s Government

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.”

Why Hebron?

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.