Last week, the Jerusalem Post featured an article titled “Giving Up on Elon Moreh is Like Giving up on the Temple Mount”. That headline caught my eye and while I waited for it to open on my laptop, I wondered about the similarities between Elon Moreh and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the only thing I could come up with is that both sites are in the occupied territories.
My first memories of Elon Moreh are about its establishment, and the large “Peace Now” demonstrations I took part in, which were (rather futile) attempts at preventing further land theft in the West Bank and stopping the additional establishment of “Facts on the Ground” aimed at making the occupation permanent.
As it turns out, the article is mostly about Eliav Hillel, an Elon Moreh resident who came to the settlement after he was evicted from the Yamit settlement in Northern Sinai which was returned to its rightful owners as part of the Peace Agreement with Egypt. Apparently, Mr. Hillel has made it his goal in life to take land that belongs to others and make it his own. Elon Moreh, even though the Israeli courts in the end approved its establishment, is in the heart of Palestinian territory near the city of Nablus and the arguments used by Israel to justify it are mainly judicial wrangling and chicanery with the occasional “Security Considerations” added for flavor.
But Eliav Hillel, and I assume most of his fellow inhabitants of the settlement of Elon Moreh, knew this is not a solid basis to build on, so they decided the best option would be go with the Bible. An often used argument to establish “rights”, it is often hard to argue with, especially in Israel.
The story of the Bible, can and has been interpreted to establish as facts, events and places that at best, are in the realm of legends or folktales. Places like Rachel’s Tomb, near Bethlehem or Joseph’s Tomb, near Nablus, have no historical, archaeological or factual basis but are generally accepted to be what they are named.
Thus, the argument by Mr. Hillel, that God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants and thus the land is undisputable part of the “Land of Israel”, has no basis, no historical background, and no archeological indications that there is even the slightest shimmer of truth in it.
It is difficult to argue with Mr. Hillel over his religious beliefs and I respect his feelings and I would be the last one to tell him what he can believe and what not. However, Mr. Hillel’s beliefs should not and cannot become the basis of the policy of a nation that considers itself democratic and respecting International Law. The moment a country allows itself to be led by religious arguments, it will very quickly descend into the abyss of a theocracy where leaders the likes of Ayatollah’s, Imams and Rabbis are in control.
So maybe we should look at the occupation (and the sovereignty over the occupied territory that the Israel government is planning) as a continuation of the steps taken when Israel was established, which even though the “Jewish” factor played a large role in it, was ultimately established, (and maintained and strengthened) by military force. So the events of June 1967 were just a continuation of what happened in 1948 and Israel took by force what it considers to be hers. The problem is that what worked in 1948, (for all kind of reasons) no longer worked in 1967 and will definitely not work in 2020. In 1948, the rights of local inhabitants could still be trampled on, in 2020, this will not be tolerated anymore, even if it is done to exercise “religious” rights.
Having said all that, I must agree with Mr. Hillel that the “Trump” plan is a political game that both Netanyahu and Trump are playing with the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis as the stakes, but with only the lives and careers of these politicians in mind. It will lead to no positive, acceptable solution, not for Israelis and not for Palestinians. Such a solution will come only when Mr. Hillel, AND his Palestinian neighbor in Nablus, realize, and recognize, that the other has rights no less than his and that only compromise will lead us out of this quagmire.
I enjoy having a good glass of wine in the evening, but I make an effort to avoid wine from the Occupied Territories. I will wait until we do no longer have “Occupied” territories and drink Mr. Hillel’s wine with pleasure. It will not leave a bitter aftertaste.