April 3, 2006
Two months ago, on February first, over 1,600 police participated in destroying the Jewish community of Amona, on the outskirts of Ofra, in the Benjamin region of Israel. As a result of massive police brutality, over three hundred and fifty people needed medical care and/or hospitalization.
Several days prior to this, it seemed almost inevitable that a similar confrontation was going to precede Amona. Hebron leaders had been warned: if you do not immediately abandon the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, outside the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Hebron, the troops will arrive and start with you. Amona will be second. Hebron will be first.
Hebron leaders participated in an emergency meeting with several senior military officers, including Brigadier General Yair Golan. Golan is the ranking officer in charge of Judea and Samaria. During a very tense meeting, Golan laid the groundwork for a compromise solution. There were a number of details involved, but the primary offer consisted of: the nine families living in the former ‘Arab market,’ as well as the Torah study hall established in memory of the murdered infant Shalhevet Pass, would ‘voluntarily’ leave their homes within 48 hours, and all their belongings would be removed from the homes by the end of the week. In return, the defense establishment, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s office, would void any possible remaining legal status Hebron’s Arab municipality might still maintain at the site, and following the conclusion of that procedure, lease the structures to Hebron’s Jewish community.
Despite heavy doubts and misgivings, Hebron’s leaders, following a lengthy consultation, decided to accept the offer. Two more meetings were conducted, first with residents living in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, and then with a forum of other Hebron residents. At the conclusion of that gathering it was decided to call an emergency ‘town-meeting’ of all Hebron residents, that very night. At about two o’clock in the morning Hebron residents met in the Avraham Avinu synagogue to discuss the proposed offer and make a decision: accept or reject it. Following two hours of intense discussion a vote was taken and a majority of those present decided to take a chance and accept the compromise agreement.
It wasn’t easy to implement a ‘self-expulsion’ from the homes in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood. The scenes of 1929, the scenes from Yamit, the scenes from the more recent expulsions from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, all played before our eyes. Would we be desecrating little Shalhevet’s memory by abandoning the homes and neighborhood; after all, it was initiated in her memory, following her murder, five years ago? Yet, despite the question marks, qualms and reservations, it was done. The neighborhood was left empty; all the families moved elsewhere, some living in very difficult conditions, and the houses locked. Hebron’s Jewish community implemented its side of the deal. Now it was the other side’s turn.
Even prior to the ‘deal,’ the defense department had already begun the process of voiding any possible Arab claims to the former ‘market.’ The defense department notified the Supreme Court of this plan and added its intention to ‘weigh leasing the structures to Hebron’s Jewish community.’ The actual legal process by which the Hebron Arab municipality was notified of the intentions to void any possible legal rights to the site actually began prior to the agreement reached between the community and the state. This process was approved by none other than Attorney General Menachem Mazuz himself!
Mazuz’s declaration that the agreement reached between the Hebron community and the state is null and void is ludicrous:
- Mazuz himself participated in authoring the response to the Supreme Court from December 2005, which, as stated above, already agreed in principal to lease the structures to the Hebron Jewish Community. (The courts already accepted the fact that the land on which the buildings sit is Jewish-owned and legally belongs to the Hebron Jewish Community.)
- Mazuz was directly responsible for the brutal Amona expulsion/destruction because, in his opinion, ‘no viable agreement’ between the sides was possible. In the case of Hebron, an agreement was not only possible; it was achieved and implemented ( by one side). Why then would he, after the fact, reject such an agreement, which explicitly prevented the scenes from Amona in Hebron?
- Defense Minister Shaul Mufaz himself said on Israeli radio, “The wholesale market in Hebron is on Jewish land and the building, belongs to the Hebron municipality. Therefore, we told them, if they voluntarily evacuate it, in the future, legally, according to the recommendations of the attorney general, they will be able to return…”
- Minister of Internal Security, Gideon Ezra said, “Our experience and our success in Hebron to reach a solution, and as a result, violence was prevented, and I am happy about that.”
- The intermediate report of the Knesset parliamentary committee of inquiry into the events at Amona: “The compromise reached a short time before [Amona] concerning the eviction of Jews from the wholesale market in Hebron, implicitly supports the idea that the two sides, the government and the settlers, acted in good faith with the intentions of reaching an agreement acceptable to both sides.”
The question must be asked: Does the attorney general of the state of Israel (as well as, perhaps others in the administration) have a veiled interest in preferring blood-shed to negotiated agreements with Jews living in Judea and Samaria? Does he prefer policemen on foot and on horseback beating Jewish youth, as opposed to compromise settlements, which avert such situations?
And of course, the final question to be pondered: What is the significance of today’s nullification of the agreement reached, in the context of Olmert’s planned expulsions (G-d forbid) from large segments of Judea and Samaria? Is this a hint of things to come, – ‘beat them, trample them, expel them, perhaps even kill them’ – anything goes – the means justify the ends – the end being…., just what?
Hebron‘s Jewish community rejects Mazuz’s chutzpah – the attorney general of any so-called democratic state is supposed to represent the pinnacle of justice. Mazuz’s attempted nullification of the agreement reached between the community and the state is the opposite of justice; it is inequity at its best, it breeds distrust, and creates a situation whereby promise, trust, and agreements belong to the genre of science fiction .
We suggest that Mazuz rethink his response concerning the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood in Hebron and immediately implement the agreement reached, and spare himself, and the rest of Israel, continuing nightmares as witnessed at Amona.