Sacrificing Israel’s Friendships – and Future— at the Altar of Elad

Last week, the Israeli online magazine +972 reported that Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of military intelligence and the current director of the Institute for National Security Studies, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, signed onto an ad congratulating settlers for taking over some 7 buildings (with more than 20 apartments) in East Jerusalem, in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, which the settlers call the City of David/Ir David.  The ad read:

On the eve of Sukkot, we are happy to congratulate the dozens of new families that are joining the Jewish settlement of Ir David these days.  We salute the Zionist work of those who take part in this mission. Strengthening Jewish presence in Jerusalem is the challenge for all of us, and by your act of settlement you make us all stand taller. Together, we will welcome the pilgrims who are visiting on the holiday. We appreciate and endear you.

Yadlin and his co-signers are, in effect, endorsing the sacrifice of Israel’s future at the altar of Elad.  This is the right-wing organization that for decades has been the engine behind settlement in Silwan—an enterprise that has historically been and continues to be especially problematic politically, morally, and legally.  While recently Elad has endeavored to transform itself into a “mainstream” organization associated with cultural and touristic activities, its raison d’etre has not changed: to create facts on the ground that prevent a two-state solution and to establish an exclusionary, Jewish/Israeli hegemony in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem.

By celebrating, supporting and defending Elad’s efforts, Yadlin, Wiesel, and their fellow travelers – in Israel and abroad – are, in effect, telling the world that they prioritize land over peace, settlements over security, and Greater Israel over Israeli democracy and Israel’s standing in the international community. 

The world is getting the message, and is responding by making increasingly clear that it has run out of patience with Israeli policies that are anathema to a two-state solution.  Frustration with such policies is finally being translated into action: Israel’s largest trading partner, the EU, now includes anti-settlement provisions in new cooperative agreements with Israel; governments are warning citizens not to do business in settlements; earlier this month, Sweden became the first European country to announce that it would recognize Palestine.  And on Monday, the British parliament voted 274-12 to recognize the state of Palestine, despite entreaties from Israeli leaders not to do so.  While mainly symbolic, the UK vote to recognize Palestine nonetheless underscores the depth of Europe's frustration and the degree to which the political winds have shifted. 

The latest Jerusalem settlement scandals, Silwan and Givat Hamatos, and Israel’s recent annexation of almost 1000 acres of West Bank land, clearly contributed to the outcome of Monday’s vote.  Make no mistake: more than Westminster’s vote was pro-Palestine, it was anti-settlements. As the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz points out, MPs spoke out against settlements more than forty times during the debate. UK Conservative party member and chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee Richard Ottaway, a longtime supporter of Israel, summed up the current situation succinctly:

Under normal circumstances I would oppose the motion tonight; but such is my anger over Israel’s behavior in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.

Israel is indeed losing friends in the international community. This is not because of rising global anti-Semitism, or successful Palestinian public relations campaigns.  Rather, it is because pro-settlement forces – Prime Minister Netanyahu Netanyahu and members of his Cabinet;  Yadlin, Wiesel  and their fellow travelers – are recklessly sacrificing Israel’s relationships and its future at the altar of Elad and its ilk, in the service of the messianic dream of Greater Israel.