Thursday, February 09, 2017


 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column


I opened my newspaper this morning (Wednesday) and was greeted with the headline: the White House has no comment on the regularization law that was passed yesterday, and will talk about it when PM Netanyahu visits Washington to meet with President Trump next week.

Imagine my relief. I mean, why should the White House have an opinion about something which is really an internal Israeli affair? I am amused – well, pretty irritated, actually – by the way Ha’aretz and my social media friends have decided to call it the “land grab law,” when it actually goes farther to compensate owners of land than customary common law would. As Eugene Kontorovich explains,

Israel’s proposed “Regulations Bill” has attracted broad international criticism, including from the U.S. State Department and the European Union, as well as from opposition Israeli politicians and some government lawyers. The bill seeks to solve a situation in which, over several decades, over one thousand Israeli homes in West Bank settlements have been built in open areas to which Palestinians subsequently asserted property claims, typically based on broad give-aways of state land by the King of Jordan during the Hashemite occupation (1949-67). The homes are in communities built with some level of government involvement. Thus the bill provides the government would compensate the landowners 125% of the value of the land, in order to allow the communities that have been built there to remain.

The plots are generally open, uncultivated fields. The frequently used characterization of “private Palestinian lands” is misleading. In the overwhelming majority of cases, no individual Palestinians have come forward to claim the lands. Indeed, in most cases, no property claimants asserted their interests for decades after houses were built, a situation that in common law would certainly warrant the application of adverse possession doctrines, under which long-term possession of property unprotested by owners can change legal title, exactly to prevent these kinds of conflict between long-term users and owners who slept on their rights . Under Jordanian law, rules of prescription, which would turn the land over to its existing inhabitants, would apply. In cases like the community of Amona, which inspired but are not covered by the law, the Court made its determination without any fact-finding, and the lands claimed by the Palestinian petitioners only slightly overlap with those on which the Israeli homes stand.

It’s not really a big deal, is it? No Palestinians are being exploited, and the residents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are just getting the same kind of protection for their investment as people in the rest of Israel, the US and many other developed countries have. Better, since the state is willing to pick up the tab for compensation.

Of course the world leaders in virtue and morality, the EU and the governments of Germany and France, are dead set against the law. The folks whose wisdom brought us two world wars and a Holocaust have “lost confidence” that we are serious about the “two-state solution” that they hope will slice our country into indefensibility. 

Later today I listened on the radio to the reactions of the European representatives in Israel. You would think that the Knesset had passed a law demanding that the Palestinians must throw all their male children into the sea, and not one that simply makes it possible to compensate people in return for taking property that they may not even have clear title to, and haven’t used for years, if ever. I am becoming more and more convinced that after Iran, Europe is our greatest enemy, and the Palestinians their weapon.

Well, Amona is rubble, its residents are homeless, and the cabal made up of the Civil Administration (the military entity that rules Area C, where almost all Jewish settlements are and few Arabs live), the left-leaning legal establishment, and the subversive European-paid NGOs are smacking their lips over how they will do the same to numerous other Jewish communities, just as soon as the Supreme Court voids the new law.

Because, after all, who cares what the democratically elected Knesset and government decide? Don’t we understand who really runs the country and knows what’s good for us? Those religious settler fanatics are an obstacle to peace! Just ask the talking heads on Israeli radio and TV.

Which brings me to the next headline: Channel 2 reports that Netanyahu told the police that have been investigating him nonstop for who knows how long, that he didn’t know about bottles of champagne and other gifts received by his wife from a businessman friend, and he didn’t check the value of cigars that he himself was given. He just smoked them! Not only that, but he told the police that he bought plenty of cigars with his own money.

So, just some random thoughts on this “scandal:” Channel 2 has been selectively dribbling out information about Netanyahu’s supposedly confidential police investigations for months. Where do they get it, and why is it OK for them to release out-of-context snippets of interrogations in a country where the names and faces of people accused of crimes are routinely redacted from news reports?

The investigation itself is on the same level as one of the previous ones, in which Mrs. Netanyahu was accused of returning deposit bottles that had been used at official functions, and keeping the money. Yes, she did it; yes, the small amount of money was returned; and yes, the silliness of creating a scandal about deposit bottles was duly noted.

The fact is that the same media people that deliberately mischaracterize the regularization law and also gleefully bash Netanyahu on every occasion, are running a long-term project to make him look like a crook. How much of the evening news is devoted to his non-scandals, almost every day? How many hours has he wasted, answering police questions and trying to deal with the fallout from these frivolous investigations? He’s the Prime Minister of the strongest country in the region, economically and militarily, the one and only Jewish state – which half the world hates and wants to destroy – and you are busting his balls about some cigars?

This isn’t really funny. Netanyahu has said that he believes there is a media campaign to force the Attorney General to indict him. And if he is indicted, he could be forced to resign.

The story on page 11 of the newspaper reminds me that not everything is frivolous or political. It is about Trump and Iran trading barbs over the Iranian missile development program. Now that Obama is gone, it may be possible for the US and Israel to develop an effective policy to prevent their common enemy, Iran, from producing and deploying nuclear weapons. 

I devoutly hope that this will be the main subject for discussion between Netanyahu and Trump, rather than Judean real estate law. Or cigars.





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