ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | The National Unity Government – The End?

The National Unity Government – The End?

20 October 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The opening shots may have been fired in ‘the beginning of the end’ of the National Unity Government.  Over Shabbat ‘somebody’ ordered the army to evacuate the outlook settlement of Gilad Farm not far from Nablus.  By Saturday night the confrontation between over a thousand settlers and their supporters and security forces (police and army) turned violent.  Twenty-three members of the security forces were injured as were quite a few settlers. 

The ultra-radical ‘hilltop youth’ who are involved in much of the illegal settlement drive apparently led the resistance to the security forces and are responsible for much of the violence.  They have full backing from National Religious Party chairman Effi Eitam who objects to the removal of any settlements in the Land of Israel, whether legal or not.  He condemned Defense Minister Benyamin Ben Eliezer as “a liar”, “a moron” and “a coward” for giving the army orders to remove those at the Gilad Farm.  Eitam is demanding PM Sharon fire the defense minister.  Furthermore he and many others, both religious and non-religious, condemned the use of the army in such activities on Shabbat. 

On the other hand Ben Eliezer declared he will remove all illegal hilltop settlements and denied he had given the order to do so on Shabbat.  He declared he will put down “the settler revolt” and all illegal residents will be evacuated.  Many, in all political spheres see his actions as directed more towards the Labor Party primaries than having to do with law enforcement (as discussed in this column recently). 

Left and Right have found an agreed upon issue to tear apart the unity government. This time the Right led the charge by establishing the illegal settlements and challenging the government to remove them.  They knew Ben Eliezer would have to take action eventually, despite the fact he ignored them for over a year.  Apparently someone on the secular Left (and so far no one knows who) decided this must begin by moving soldiers around on Shabbat in clear violation of all status quo agreements and army law itself. 

The evacuation was not a matter of life and death.  Many soldiers used in the operation were religious and violated their Jewish consciousness and way of life.  Loyalties are stretched when an observant soldier finds out he took an unnecessary action on Shabbat and thereby violated the sanctity of the day of rest.

All actions could have been taken Saturday night and Sunday morning.  On the other hand all illegal structures should be removed.  In the future any illegal action should be stopped immediately and not a year or several months later.  As for the violent actions taken against the police and especially against the army, the perpetrators need to be seized and punished to the full extent of the law.  The orthodox and Judean/Samarian legal Jewish communities would do best to apply massive social pressure against these extremists, even to the point of ostracism, bordering on excommunication.  Many of these super radicals neither serve in the army nor support the legal basis of the State of Israel.

Once again the tail wags the dog in Israeli politics.  The Right bought down the Netanyahu government in 1999, bringing the Left to power.  Ehud Barak’s radical left wing shift in negotiations with the Palestinians led to his downfall and loss in the 2001 elections for prime minister to Ariel Sharon.  Now the NUG may end due to extremism on both sides.

It would be a change of pace if the law abiding, tax paying majority, whose only demands are reasonable conditions for peace and security would finally be represented by a government who would put and end to all forms of extremism.