By Larry Gordon
Leftist elected officials in Israel have had a thing for chareidi Jews for a long time. Last year, however, when a secularist like Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid joined with Bayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett, it became possible for the first time for Israel to have a governing coalition with the ultra-Orthodox or religious parties in the opposition, that is sitting on the outside. As a result, the near future did not bode well for that community.
The somewhat powerless chareidim were then vulnerable, and unfortunately some on the Left saw it as an opportunity to pounce and vent some of the pent-up hostility they had for all the times in Israel’s brief history that they felt the chareidim were unduly demanding of governments they sat in. That usually meant allocating hundreds of millions of shekels to support a chareidi lifestyle that those on the Left saw as unproductive to Israel society in the larger realm.
Some went so far as to say that the one thing dragging down the Israeli economy was support of yeshiva students and chareidi schools in general. Those same leftists spoke about peace and the two-state solution as a great panacea. This continues unabated just days after this latest war, which demonstrated beyond question what happens in territory vacated by Israel and handed to the Arabs, moderate or otherwise.
Now, thanks to Manhigut Yehudit, a Likud Party faction led by Moshe Feiglin, a detailed booklet has been published that tries to right this awful wrong. The dirty little secret is out, making clear where billions of shekels have gone in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Authority 21 years ago.
Support of the ultra-Orthodox sector is not the problem. The billions have gone to prop up the falsity of Oslo and to protect Israelis from being murdered or wounded by their would-be “peace partners,” who have turned out to be anything but that.
Just this week, a story was reported in a Lebanese newspaper about a difficult meeting between Khaled Mashaal of Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas of the PA held during the recent Gaza war. Apparently, Israel had discovered and revealed to the PA that Hamas was planning a coup in Judea and Samaria along the lines of what happened in Gaza in 2007. According to the paper, Abbas was incensed at Mashaal, declaring incredulously, “You smuggled weapons into the territories, and not even to harm Israel, but to harm us!” Mashaal said the accusation was all lies—which is just about enough proof that the supposed coup was absolutely true.
The bottom line is that Israel is spending billions on a peace process that was never a good idea and, more than two decades later, is a worse and even less possible idea. Somehow, Mr. Lapid, along with others intoxicated with the idea of land being traded for peace, believes that there is an opportunity to skip from the Gaza war right to the negotiating table, where plans can be quickly drawn up to create two states. Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, believes that, and the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said just a few days ago that he is ready to return to Israel to jump-start negotiations. Considering what transpired over the summer in Israel, it is difficult to understand how any of these ideas can be considered anything but delusional.
On a more practical, dollars-and-cents level, though, if Israelis want to know what is economically draining them, they should not be tapping around the chareidi sector. It is these wild and irresponsible peace deals that are bleeding the country dry.
Based on the Manhigut Yehudit pamphlet, which cites specific statistics, let’s take a look at what the pursuit of this illusory peace with the Palestinians has cost to date. It is impossible to find a year since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 when Israel has not incurred an exorbitant price to keep its citizens safe from the people who would inhabit that second state, supposedly living side-by-side in peace. If anything, it is the opposite that has occurred.
The following are just some of the costly items that Israel has had to spend, and continues to spend, billions of shekels on every year since Oslo. There is, first, an extra cost to Israel’s security apparatus in the areas transferred to the Palestinians. Then there are the extra costs to the IDF and the need for extra police due to a skyrocketing car-theft rate—people from the PA areas working their craft in Israel.
There are the added civilian security guards at malls and many cafés and restaurants around the country. Up until a few years ago, it was impossible to enter a supermarket or eatery without either going through a metal detector or having your bags and pockets searched, all courtesy of this twisted peace process.
In the aftermath of those awful years when suicide bombings were rampant on buses and in other public places, there was the need to construct the security fence around the territories transferred to the Palestinians. The number of suicide bombings did not decrease by over 90% because peace is in the air. That number was, thankfully, reduced so significantly because the 30-foot-high concrete security wall does not allow the violent miscreants access to Israel’s population centers.
Then there is the economic damage done to Israel’s otherwise booming tourist industry by the fear induced by terrorist attacks. And there is no need to have to think back too far. Planes flying to Israel as well as hotels during this summer’s peak season have been mostly empty due to the unrelenting missile attacks targeting Israel’s civilians. This past summer alone, the loss in tourism was over $600 million.
The most damaging move, which has resulted in innumerable deaths, injuries, and property destruction, was the withdrawal of the 9,000 Jewish residents of Gush Katif. The damage created by this outgrowth of Oslo was twofold. First there is the matter of the withdrawal itself, and then the resettling of the people—which continues today, nine years later. Then there was the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the firm implantation of a terrorist infrastructure, of which we saw the results this summer. Israel announced this week that the cost of Operation Protective Edge was over $2.5 billion.
So where is the brilliance in a rush to a two-state solution? Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said this week that any withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would make shelling and launching missiles at Ben-Gurion Airport a possibly frequent activity. We all saw what happened when the airport had a shell fall a mile away from its runways this summer, with many airlines, including those from the U.S., suspending travel to Israel.
Why would Israel want to place itself in that kind of vulnerable position? Why would the U.S. and the Europeans want Israel to be in that position?
The booklet, entitled “The Oslo Process: How much does it cost?” sums up the situation when it says, “Twenty years after the start of the Oslo Process, we can factually determine that its goal was not achieved; instead of bringing an end to terror, terror has persevered and increased.” The well-prepared essay and charts clearly indicate that the Oslo process is the worst economic decision ever made in Israel’s history.
That has not stopped Labor’s Isaac Herzog and Mr. Lapid of Yesh Atid from touting how concessions to the Palestinians and the creation of another state are the solution to today’s problems. Targeting the cost of supporting the chareidi sector may yet prove to be nothing more than a diversion.
All this wrongheaded thinking and contradictory policies is reminiscent of a 1970s cartoon character who ruminated that “we have met the enemy and he is us.”
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at email@example.com.
By Larry Gordon