Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When all is forbidden, all is permitted

When all is forbidden, all is permitted
By Nadav Shragai
November 17, 2008

It is hard to remember when Defense Minister Ehud Barak last visited the settlements, when he last sat face to face with a teacher, nursery school teacher, parent or child, and not with the head of a council or settlement. Or when he last honestly and truly asked to learn about what is going on there.

If Barak were to trouble himself and visit those areas, where about 300,000 Israelis now live, he would find hundreds of nursery schools, day care centers and schools filled to capacity along with thousands of young people and hundreds of young couples who want to build their homes next to their parents. But they are being forced to leave the settlements due to a lack of housing.

There has never been anything like it in Judea and Samaria. The freeze is almost total. To enclose a porch, a family has to jump through five hoops, the last of which is the defense minister's signature.

The authorities are tightfisted even when a health clinic, school, youth center or public toilet is involved. Barak may have recently eased up slightly, mostly in the case of "settlement blocs" that according to the plan will remain under Israeli sovereignty after a permanent agreement.

He was even generous enough to approve a cemetery near Ma'aleh Adumim, but this more resembles a joke on the living.

When everything is forbidden, everything is permitted, a wise man once said. In other words: When it is impossible to transport even a trailer to be used as a school bathroom without the Central Command head's approval, or when the legal authorities rush to destroy every improvised little petting zoo set up by children to stop the serious threat to the rule of law from chickens or sheep, no one takes those authorities seriously anymore, and everything concerning construction is wide-open and allowed.

This is how an industry of small mobile homes has developed. You build the walls in the backyard, and they turn into an illegal home.This is how entire neighborhoods have been built without permits, and why government representatives are met there with fury bordering on hatred, just as they are greeted in the Arab and Bedouin communities.

After all, everything is forbidden there, too, so everything is permitted.

It is crowded in the settlements. Annual growth is impressive, a bit more than 5 percent a year, more than twice the rest of the country.

Two-thirds are the result of births, but even the formula of "natural growth" that was meant to allow those born in the settlements to continue living there - the policy Ariel Sharon's government stuck to at the beginning - has disappeared as if it never existed.

When the Israeli government institutes a "white paper" policy in Judea and Samaria, it has implications well beyond the question of whether Israel is meeting the absurd international commitments it took on itself. A growing public, in particular the younger generation, is being forced to leave the settlements. This is a form of quiet population transfer. They would remain if they had the choice. The bitterness and insult will show one day: if not today then tomorrow.

Many of them are joining the Israel Defense Forces in droves and even volunteering for the most elite units, while others are serving in places like Yeruham, Sderot, Ramle and Lod. They are also contributing in groups that work in social or religious education in these towns.

All of them are getting married and starting families, and have nowhere to return home to. They are not the hilltop youth withdrawing from the Israeli state, or the expellees from Gush Katif. But anyone who thinks that this forced exile - the result of decrees of freezing and hanging the settlements out to dry - does not leave its traces on them is wrong.

The state is driving away another segment of the public, whose natural inclination is to tie its fate to the State of Israel and contribute all it can.

That is why it is so hard to decide whether to laugh or cry over the excitement taking hold of the left and its spokesmen as a result of what is called "Barak's settlement document." Barak, heaven forbid, approved 400 houses in the settlements.

If there is a real reason to become excited, it lies in the little amount of construction that was unfrozen, at a time when thousands of young people are leaving Judea and Samaria every year as part of the big freeze.

After all, who needs an evacuation if it is possible to simply drain the water from the aquarium?

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