Every time Tzipi Livni opens her mouth, the word “democracy” comes out. According to Livni, the government and the Knesset that were democratically elected by the people are constantly “endangering” it, “undermining” it, “imperiling it,” and so on.
Nothing contradicts her more powerfully than the fact that her bloc is consistently defeated at the ballot box in elections that are probably the most free and fair in the world.
There is, however, another word that she does not say – and unfortunately, that our supposedly “right-wing” government doesn’t utter often enough either. That word is “sovereignty.”
Sovereignty is far more important than democracy, because if you don’t control what happens in your own country, then you don’t have a country, democratic or otherwise.
Israel is the one country in the world whose people’s sovereignty over their own land is regularly disputed, and I am not talking only about Judea and Samaria. Indicators of disagreement with the very existence of a Jewish state include support of BDS or a right of return for “Palestinian refugees,” both of which are widespread throughout the world.
One of the most hostile entities to Israeli sovereignty is the UN, which tries to inject itself into internal Israeli matters on a regular basis. For example, there is the Temporary International Presence in Hevron (TIPH), established after the Baruch Goldstein massacre when the Palestinian Authority requested that something be done to “guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians.” Initially the mission was staffed by Norway alone, but today it includes representatives from Norway, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
The observers are supposed to be impartial and report all “breaches of the agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on Hebron, as well as on violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” but in fact are highly partisan, ignore Arab terrorism and report only Palestinian complaints against Israel. They take part in anti-Israel propaganda events, and harass Jewish residents of Hevron. Two recent high-profile incidents include an observer slapping a Jewish child, and another puncturing the tires of a vehicle belonging to a Jewish resident.
There is a simple solution to the problem: the government of Israel initially agreed to their presence, and the government can revoke its agreement. The PM should announce that they have 48 hours to pack up and go. I doubt that even Tzipi Livni would claim that that would be “undemocratic.”
Then of course there is UNTSO, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, which squats rent-free in the beautiful Armon Hanatziv, the former palace of the British High Commissioner, located on some of the most expensive real estate in Jerusalem. UNTSO was established in May, 1948; when the British moved out, the Red Cross and then the UN moved in. Probably the idea was that the UN would govern the international corpus separatum that it intended Jerusalem to become from that lovely spot. UNTSO’s mission today is to supervise truce agreements, most of which are long since gone.
Miri Regev, one of the few Israeli politicians that seems to care about our sovereignty and national honor, tried to kick them out last year, but didn’t succeed. She argued that their presence in Jerusalem was unnecessary (since all they have left to supervise is the 1974 disengagement resolution with Syria) and that they were engaged in anti-Israel activities. Quelle surprise! There are 376 UN employees there, and they should rent office space like anyone else – or better yet, move to Damascus.
There are countless other impingements on Israeli sovereignty, including the huge sums of money funneled to subversive NGOs from Europe; unwritten American restrictions on building in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem; EU funded and directed illegal Arab building in Area C of the territories; and UNESCO resolutions declaring various parts of Israel – including the Western Wall – to be “Palestinian heritage sites.”
But all of these things pale in comparison the biggest, most blatant, most humiliating impairment to our sovereignty of all, the continued Arab occupation of the Temple Mount.
Judging by the imbalance between the rights of Muslims and Jews on the Mount, one could be excused for thinking that it was located in an Arab country, and not in the heart of Israel’s capital. Jews are not permitted to pray (even to move their lips silently) or to use the water faucets, while Muslim children may play ball on the grounds, and teams of Muslim provocateurs scream at Jewish worshippers. Restrictions are enforced by Israeli police officers. Just last week, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the use of metal detectors on the only entrance to the Mount that Jews are permitted to use, while such detectors were removed from Muslim entrances, despite the fact that weapons that were used to murder police officers were smuggled in through those entrances.
The Temple Mount, following what is called the “status quo,” allows the Jordanian Waqf to govern and maintain the area. But since 1967, the quo hasn’t been static, with more and more restrictions placed on Jews. The Waqf has engaged in large construction projects while violating understandings that require archaeological supervision for such things, resulting in the destruction or loss of priceless artifacts. Many believe that there has been a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence of Jewish history at the site. Attempts by Israel to replace a dangerous bridge that leads to one of the gates to the Mount have been met by riots. The bridge has been in “temporary” form since 2004.
What is being endangered, undermined, and imperiled is not democracy. We have plenty of democracy, sometimes so much that the government is unable to get anything accomplished – such as solving the problem of illegal migrants – without being stymied by stupid internal politics, as well as the “guardians of democracy,” the subversive European-funded NGOs and the Supreme Court. What is at risk is our sovereignty – in the territories, in Jerusalem, even in the burning lands surrounding the Gaza strip, where we seem to be unable or unwilling to protect our own population.
Sovereignty is precious – and delicate. It can be strengthened or eroded by precedents that we allow to be established. Because of the typical Israeli attitude that “symbolic stuff doesn’t matter,” and the desire to avoid any form of conflict at all cost, we allow important principles to slip away, and soon “symbolic stuff” turns into irreversible facts on the ground.
Our government could take a lesson from Donald Trump. You can’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he was told, there will be unrest. You can’t move the embassy, they said, there will be riots. You can’t cut funding to UNRWA or demand that the PA stop paying terrorists. You can’t kill the Iran deal and re-impose sanctions. But he did all those things and the sky didn’t fall.
We can take back our sovereignty – around Gaza, at the Temple Mount, and from the UN and the EU. It won’t make everyone love us – nothing could do that in today’s world – but it might get us some respect.