Gush Shalom, which defines itself as the “hard core” of Israel’s peace camp, is going after Jewish Home Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who is, apparently, to blame for anything that has and will surely go wrong in the explosive Middle East.
The reason Gush Shalom, headed by the aging but still very charismatic journalist Uri Avneri, who was the first Israeli newspaper publisher to meet openly with the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, is going after Minister Ariel has to do with something he said this month:
“We should make clear to Secretary of State Kerry that Israel will never return to the Auschwitz borders, will not freeze the settlements endeavor, and will not agree to be sacrificed so that he could receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I am sure the prime minister will not be partner to abandoning Israel’s security.”
And on Sunday, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new neighborhood of Leshem in the town of Alei Zahav, a few miles away from the city of Ariel in Samaria, Minister Ariel said:
“It should be clear to any thinking person: there are no two states for two peoples west of the Jordan River, there will be no such thing, even if we’re sitting at the negotiations table, this is not on the agenda.” He then added: “We will build everywhere in the Land of Israel, and certainly in Samaria, and certainly in Judea.”
The reaction from the left was furious:
“With the winds of war blowing in our region, Housing Minister Uri Ariel pours more oil on the flames by establishing the new ‘Leshem’ settlement on the West Bank. In the inflammatory speech which he delivered on that occasion he shows himself a dangerous extreme right provocateur,” reads the Gush Shalom press release, responding to the Minister’s relatively benign, if somewhat excited statement.
The entire press release reads like the stuff Avneri used to dish out on a weekly basis, back in the roaring 1970s. The next paragraph is vintage Avneri:
“This is far from an unexpected development. Ariel’s rampage could have been predicted from the moment when the settler cat was placed in charge of the housing cream. Ariel is not a private individual, he the Minister of Housing in the government of Israel.”
It’s interesting to note that Alei Zahav, established a little over 30 years ago, in 1982, is more likely to vote Likud-Beiteinu than Jewish Home: its 130 families (now a few more, with the opening of the new neighborhood) are 80 percent non-religious. So you can’t quite accuse Minister Ariel of being the cat taking all the cream to himself – not if he shares the cream with other cats…
Also, Deputy Minister Ophir Akonis of Likud Beiteinu, who also graced the inauguration with his presence, repeated everything the minister had said: “There are indeed negotiating with the Palestinians, but that does not stop anyone from building homes in Israel,” he said. “Out of this place, a message is emanating, that a Palestinian state will never be established.”
“Look around you,” Akunis said, “who needs another Arab country in this area?”
Nevertheless, Avneri et al are after Uri Ariel, despite the fact that his message is not different at all from what’s being said these days by the majority of the Likud Beiteinu ministers. The reason is obvious: if you portray the situation as it is, meaning that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni are way to the left of the government in which they serve, then you must abandon hope of the two-state solution becoming a reality in the near future.
But if you portray Jewish Home as the extremist, settler holdout in a government eager to plant a second Hamas entity right next door to Ben Gurion International Airport – then you’ve got something to work with.
This is precisely Avneri’s next point:
“There is not one government which is busy building settlements and spitting in the face of the Palestinians, and a different government which is supposed to negotiate and reach a peace agreement with the same Palestinians. It is the same government, and all its ministers are responsible for Ariel’s acts of provocation.”