Battle Over Future of Jewish Presence in Judea, Samaria Ends With a Deal That Is a Defeat for the Left
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The announcement on Tuesday that a deal had been reached between the government and the residents of Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood will hopefully bring a peaceful end to an otherwise painful episode.
After months of wrangling, the two sides reached an accommodation that will bring about the relocation of the homes at the heart of the dispute along with additional building in other parts of Beit El.
This entire affair, which threatened to resurrect old wounds in Israeli society, was the opening salvo in a campaign by Israel’s Left to force the government to demolish Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria that it deems to be illegal. In the coming months, similar conflicts are likely to arise over other Jewish outposts such as those at Givat Assaf and Migron, as the Left seeks to turn back the clock and undermine Israel’s presence in the territories.
But the ideologues on the Left are missing the point. The battle over the future of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is over. To put it simply: the Left has lost, and the Jewish people have won.
Consider the following. According to an Interior Ministry census published at the start of the year, there are an estimated 722,000 Jews currently living in the areas that were liberated by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. This includes more than 300,000 who dwell in parts of eastern and northern Jerusalem that were taken back from Jordan, another 340,000 who reside in Judea and Samaria, as well as 60,000 people who live and study at various educational institutions in the area.
The significance of this statistic is enormous. It means that nearly one out of every 10 Israelis now lives beyond the so-called Green Line.
That is more than the population of Tel Aviv and Haifa combined.
Hence, in just 45 years, since the miraculous victory of the Six Day War, the number of Jews living in Israel’s ancient heartland has gone from zero to 700,000 and it is still growing at a hefty clip.
Indeed, in 2011, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria grew at a pace of 4.3%, which is more than double the national average.
Needless to say, this number is even more remarkable when one considers the inordinate number of political, diplomatic and bureaucratic obstacles that have stood in the way of restoring the Jewish presence in the territories.
Nowhere else in the world is so much attention paid to the pouring of concrete or the approval of blueprints.
Whenever someone in Itamar or Kiryat Arba decides to enclose a porch or redo the kitchen, it inexplicably threatens to become an international incident, eliciting the most irrational of responses from the plenary of the United Nations to the halls of the US State Department.
And Israel’s vaunted bureaucracy certainly does not make things any easier for our brethren in Judea and Samaria, who often have to obtain a dizzying array of permits to build their homes.
But despite it all, the Green Line is dead and buried, and the Left can kiss it goodbye. It is no longer of any relevance, politically or otherwise.
Jewish life in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem is growing and flourishing, and there is no human power on earth that is going to uproot or move hundreds of thousands of Jews from places such as Ariel, Tekoa, or Hebron.
Even in the battle for Israeli public opinion, the Left’s failure has been colossal. Last week, the results of an annual survey measuring the Israeli public’s views of the settlement enterprise were released. They undoubtedly led to a great deal of handwringing and nervous sweating in the offices of Peace Now.
The survey, which was conducted by Dr. Miriam Billig and Dr. Udi Lebel of the Ariel University Center, found that a whopping 64% of Israelis support Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria. A similar percentage said that settling the territories is a “truly Zionist deed,” and 57% said they view Judea and Samaria as Israel’s security belt.
So despite years of demonization and de-legitimization by the Left, the Jewish settlement initiative still commands profound respect and widespread support.
Notwithstanding the press’s predilection to depict all Jewish settlers as bearded, gun-toting men with soup-bowl size yarmulkes on their heads patrolling barren hilltops, anyone who has visited Judea and Samaria knows better.
The population is as diverse as it is large, and it encompasses a broad array of people from a variety of religious, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There are secular farmers, observant hi-tech executives, female yoga instructors and Russian immigrant physicists. Some have chosen Judea and Samaria for ideological or religious reasons, while others have done so for convenience and quality of life.
Whatever the motive, the repopulation of Judea and Samaria with Jews represents a remarkable triumph of the human spirit, and a validation of the pioneering ethos upon which this country was founded.
There are to be sure many challenges that still lie ahead, as pressure will continue to mount on Israel to draw boundaries and accede to some form of partial territorial retreat. The Palestinians and their allies will surely continue to insist on statehood and the expulsion of Jews.
But the Jewish people have withstood far greater threats in the past.
We have overcome diplomatic disapproval, international hostility, and unjustified opprobrium to reclaim the land that is ours by history and by right.
When Jeremiah (31:4) foretold that “you will yet plant vineyards in Samaria” and that the sounds of rejoicing would again be heard in the cities of Judea (33:10-11), he knew of what he spoke.
With G-d’s help, recent years have shown that Jews are returning to Judea, Samaria and the Old City of Jerusalem in increasing numbers. So to our critics and foes I have one small piece of friendly advice: you had better get used to it, because the Jewish people are here to stay.
This column originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.