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Monday, June 04, 2012

Every time I think I'm starting to understand...

... it turns out I don't understand anything.

There are five multi-family houses in the 'Ulpana' neighborhood of Beit El which have been at the center of a dispute for several years.

The lots were cleared and the buildings constructed with all the necessary permits from the government.  The gas, water and electricity were all hooked up with approval of the government.  The residents (6 families per building) all took mortgages and registered their purchases, with government approval.

And to be clear, when I say 'the government' here, I'm talking about the Israeli government under Ehud Olmert's left-of-center Kadima led coalition, not some 'evil right wing' Likud coalition.

Only one problem.  An Arab from a neighboring village came forward and claimed that the land on which these five houses were built was his and had not been legally sold. 

I'm not sure exactly what that means in this day and age.  But at face value it could mean anything from 'the land was taken and built upon without ascertaining proper ownership'... to 'the Arab sold the land (directly or through intermediaries), and is now facing a death sentence, since selling land to a Jew is a capital offense under PA law'.  Or it could mean anything in between those two extremes. 

Seriously, politics aside, it could also be as simple as a surveyor's or clerk's error.  Granted, it probably isn't... but still.

But back to our story... here there are five beautiful multi-family homes on contested land. 

On one side of the argument, the PA Arab who claims to own the land (along with a raft of leftist NGOs and journalists) will settle for nothing less than the demolition of the homes.  It doesn't matter that he can't do anything with the land even in the event that the homes are demolished, because for security reasons, he would never be permitted to build inside Beit El (see location of the 5 houses inside the red lines) anymore than a Jewish Israeli would be allowed to build in Bethlehem, even if he had undisputed ownership of the land:

Ulpana

No, not only is compensation or alternative land out of the question.  But the alleged owner and his leftist political backers would rather spend a fortune on legal filings and proceedings which will result in scorched earth where those houses stand, just to stick their thumb in the eye of the evil settlers.

On the other side of the argument are the families who own the homes (or thought they did), along with a raft of rightist political activists, who have spent years trying to legislate and finesse the legal status of the land rather than just trying to figure what the magic number is that would allow the Arab claimant to quietly move his family to the French Riviera and leave them the hell alone.

The Supreme Court has long since issued a ruling requiring that the five homes be demolished, but the government has continuously stalled, hoping to find a way to either circumvent the Supreme Court ruling, or enact legislation that would make the ruling moot (which amounts to the same thing).

Along comes Bibi Netanyahu and decides as Prime Minister, he will offer a two part compromise worthy of King Solomon:

Part One:  Instead of demolishing the homes, he'll have all five of them removed from their foundations and physically moved to nearby land that is owned by the government.  This should, in theory mollify the Arab owner and his leftist backers since his land will have been vacated and the rightful ownership awarded to him once and for all.

Part Two:  For every home moved, 10 new homes will also be constructed alongside them.  This should, in theory, mollify the owners and residents of the homes, as well as their rightist backers since this would amount to an entirely new neighborhood in Beit El, with instant / full government backing/permits (a process that could take years under the current Defense Minister), not to mention funding.

If ever there were a win-win situation, this would be it, right?

Wrong!

The Arab claimant and his leftist backers are screaming bloody murder because they want to see Jewish homes in rubble, and will settle for nothing less.

The home owners and their rightist backers are screaming bloody murder because they won't give up a centimeter of the Land of Israel.

Hunger strikes have been launched... new legal pleadings have been submitted... everyone is up in arms... and nobody will be happy until there is blood on the ground.  Which, if you ask me, would suit them all very well.

Both sides want to add another chapter to their narrative of victim-hood while simultaneously scoring a victory worthy of their legacy. I say a pox on both their houses! 

The Arabs and their leftist backers don't want the land, so much as they want to deny it to the Jewish rightists.  The Jewish rightists want to claim the Zionist mantle of 'settling the land' while ignoring the inconvenient fact that we weren't brought here on wings of eagles and magically dropped into 'a land without a people for a people without a land'. 

There weren't a lot of Arabs here when the waves of 19th and 20th century Aliyah began crashing onto the Levantine shore's of our ancestral homeland, but there were some!  Many (maybe even most), of those Arabs were stateless share croppers paying rent to absentee Ottoman landlords in Damascus and Beirut.  But some of them actually had title to their lands (at least according to the laws of the time).  Certainly those who can provide proof of their land claims are entitled to keep or sell their land as they see fit (or at least be compansated when honest mistakes are made).

In such a framework, compromise is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary! 

Certainly, neither the Jews nor the Arabs are strangers to the marketplace or the negotiating table.  At the first sign of a dispute, a fair price or alternate plot of land should have been offered and accepted.  It should never have come to the need to cause destruction and homelessness.  It should never have come to the need for total victory or nothing!

But then again, every time I think I'm starting to understand how things work (or should work, anyway)... it turns out I don't know anything!!!

Posted by David Bogner on June 4, 2012 | Permalink

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Very well presented, Dave.
Very balanced (not in the FOX news sense).
Now let's see what your commenters say. On many blogs you would be excoriated by one of the 2 sides, but I think your readers will do better.
Nicely done.

Posted by: Larry | Jun 4, 2012 6:30:54 PM

Well said. Every piece of land has its price and this should be paid - regardless of what the arabs did with Jewish property elsewhere.

Posted by: F Callen | Jun 4, 2012 7:41:26 PM

Actually, the situation is more absurd than that. The Arab claimant was not ever determined to be the actual owner of the land in question. That case has never been heard in court. The petitioners did not go to District Court, where land disputes are generally adjudicated, to make their claim. Rather they petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the state to destroy the houses on the technical grounds that they never received the final permits to build. The State, represented by leftist lawyers, did not contest the petition and simply agreed to destroy the houses. So the question of ownership has never been adjudicated and the residents have never had their day in court.

Posted by: Moish | Jun 4, 2012 11:42:23 PM

i understand the anti-zionists screaming bloody murder because obviously their sole motive is to see the homes destroyed and fewer jews there, but i don't understand the zionists who are angry. my first thought when hearing about this plan was "silly jew haters, your evil plan has backfired! now instead of 5 jewish homes there will be 15! suckers! bwuahaha!" i have to admit, it reminded me of purim.

Posted by: J | Jun 5, 2012 6:12:23 AM

"Both sides want to add another chapter to their narrative of victim-hood while simultaniously scoring a victory worthy of their legacy. I say a pox on both their houses" I like this line

Posted by: ben waxman | Jun 5, 2012 8:56:01 AM

@ Moish: I don't think it's a case of 5 -> 15, it is 10 new homes for every one vacated = 11 instead of 1.

Posted by: F Callen | Jun 5, 2012 3:11:26 PM

David, the issue that the right wing has with Bibi's proposal is that it will set a precedent that will allow the destruction and displacement of approximately 9000 homes, resulting in needing to resettle 70,000 people. There is no guarantee or legislation being proposed that would require the government to always move the homes, or always build more homes when such a thing is done. In addition, there is already talk of needing to raise various tax rates to cover our already over-inflated budget. Where do you thing the money to pay for this expensive undertaking will come from? I don't see any of the civil rights/social justice orgs lining up to cover the costs of relocating the buildings, and housing these people during the time it will take to rebuild their houses. Nor is there a time commitment to when these people will be able to get back into their houses, or when these new homes will be built. Plus Bibi's whole reasoning behind doing this rather than allowing the new Law to go through is his fear of the international community, but while he is trying to placate our friends in the UN, he is infuriating them further, by adding more homes to the "Settlements." This is just another case of Bibi trying to please everyone, while actually doing the opposite.

Posted by: Max Power | Jun 5, 2012 5:24:04 PM

"At the first sign of a dispute, a fair price or alternate plot of land should have been offered and accepted." Under that proposal, we will be offering up more money or plots of land, every time we want to build

Posted by: Chaim Sherman | Jun 6, 2012 12:05:55 PM

First and foremost, determine who is the legitimate owner of the land. Only then can the future of the homes be determined. If the Arab can prove ownership, the houses must be removed (physically moved or destroyed) or he MAY accept compensation for the land. If he is not the owner, then (assuming all other transactions were legal and legitimate) the mortgage holders own the land and the houses stay put.

Once you cut through the politics, the process isn't difficult. It's cutting through the politics which is difficult.

Posted by: AliasJoe | Jun 6, 2012 5:05:22 PM

If the pm has the power to fire anyone who votes against him then you are truly f**ked because the MKs care more for their jobs then for the people. either you vote your conscience or there is no true democracy.

Posted by: dave | Jun 6, 2012 7:43:41 PM

There must be deadlines set for re-establishing the homes in their new location. To prevent future similar problems,a new law providing compensation for legitimate land claims should be passed. Compromise is always difficult when both sides seek total victory.

Posted by: ED | Jun 6, 2012 8:26:14 PM

do all the 9000 families from gaza have homes?

Posted by: dave | Jun 6, 2012 8:53:37 PM

If you follow the news then you know this is a standard ploy used by the Arabs. Jews buy land legally from Arabs. Jews move into new home. Different Arabs show up claiming that they are the real owners and they never sold or the original Arabs show up and claim they never sold, having destroyed as much of the evidence of the sale as possible. Leftist Jews show up and shed tears for poor displaced Arabs who never actually lived on the land in question in the first place and still have homes to go back to. And repeat.

Posted by: Garnel Ironheart | Jun 7, 2012 3:37:58 AM

everytime I hear something like this from Mr. Netenyahu, I get more and more satisfaction out of getting to hear him speak in public (shortly after his first stint as PM).

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jun 10, 2012 7:57:54 PM

"Tzedek, tzedek tirdof." I'm an am ha-aretz, but there must be a comment somewhere that "tzedek" is doubled because justice means justice for both sides. But when neither side wants justice, the "rodfim" are not treated kindly by either.

Posted by: Kevin | Jun 14, 2012 2:27:54 AM

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