Prime Minister Netanyahu is directing the ‘price tag’ method at NGOs and the judicial system, stating that his government will act against those trying to enforce what little rights the Palestinians have.
In the last couple of years, we’ve witnessed a series of pogroms by settlers or their supporters, directed either at the IDF or, more often, Palestinians. These attacks, which received the common moniker of “price tags”, were orchestrated by several settler leaders, and the concept behind them was that each time the government tried to dislodge a settlement or an outpost, someone else would suffer. Generally, the settler turned the Palestinians into their hostages in order to deter the government and the military from enforcing eviction notices against them.
Just yesterday, a “price tag” attack was committed in Neve Shalom, a mixed Arab-Jewish village, by vandals who identified as opposers of the decision to move Ulpana. Cars were vandalized with messages like “Death to Arabs” and “Regards from Ulpana.”
This week, we have seen Prime Minister Netanyahu embracing the same vengeful method. In his Knesset speech following the Ulpana debacle (the Netanyahu government pledged to build 851 new apartments in the West Bank, as well as uproot and transport the five Ulpana houses, at a staggering cost), Netanyahu said:
I tell those who think they can use the judicial system to hurt settlement, that they are mistaken, because in practice, the exact opposite will occur. Instead of shrinking Beit El – Beit El has expanded. Instead of hurting settlement, settlement has been strengthened.
A quick overview of the facts is essential. The Ulpana Hill buildings were built on stolen Palestinian land, taken on the basis of fabricated documents. This is uncontested either by the courts or the state. Most of the settlers living there were evidently aware of the land’s shady status, as they did not purchase apartments there, but rather rented. The judicial process demanding the removal of the trespassers has been going on for years. Finally, the High Court of Justice left the government with no alternative but to evacuate the squatters – and now the government will indemnify them for their failed land heist, at the public’s expense.
But Netanyahu goes further. His threat is directed both at the Palestinians and Israeli NGOs: if you try to save individual Palestinians by, lo and behold, asserting their legal rights, then we shall punish the Palestinian collective. We shall deepen our invasion of their lands. The price tag: around 30 new apartments for every one you bring down. There is nothing you can do to stop the settlement process, and if you win a rare and hideously slow legal process, you shall rue the day.
Some people still think Netanyahu in the cocoon, from which a De Gaulle butterfly will emerge. We were told time and time again that Netanyahu is more pragmatic, that his father is holding him back. Well, the father is dead, and now we see the true face of Netanyahu, and – surprise! It’s the one he’s been wearing all along: the settlements and the well-being of the settlers above any other issue.
This comment also shows Netanyahu’s disturbing attitude towards law and law enforcement. Israel claims to be a democracy; perhaps it was, for the short period between the end of the military rule over Israeli Palestinians and the 1967 war. But a democracy is tested by the way its government treats the laws and its court. A prime minister who says that if the courts decide against him, he will make his political opponents sorry, is hardly one living in a democracy.
And the fact that hardly anyone protested this deeply anti-democratic comment says all that needs to be said about Israel’s so-called democracy.