Since Trump’s election, Israel appears to be aggressively pressing forward on settlements and development operations in West Bank and Jerusalem. During Trump’s first two weeks in office, Israel announced the construction of some 6,000 new homes in existing settlements, drawing rebuke from the international community. The situation has gotten out of hand to the extent that both Bibi Netanyahu and Trump are now coordinating a good-cop, bad-cop routine. Accordingly, Trump’s press secretary issued the following statement:
“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.“
Netanyahu can now tell his far-right Likudnik hawks that his hands are tied. The reality is that if he doesn’t pursue aggressive land grabs, he will be replaced. Orthodox Jews are a swing factor in the Likud party and can determine who runs that shit show.
Trump, on his end, can now play good cop with the Palestinians and act like he urged Israeli restraint. This is all designed so that when negotiations begin, Trump can incorporate his “Art of the Deal” theatrics. You can bet your bottom dollar that when Bibi and Trump meet on Feb. 15 they will indicate that friendly but frank discussions took place, including “some honest disagreements.” Also, in that statement will probably be a pledge to press forward with a resolution.
One can glean what some of the issues are internally within Israel from this Israeli Globes business publication article. Here, the mayor and deputy mayor of Jerusalem are lobbying to overcome “political obstacles” to immediately develop the infrastructure at Givat Hamatos. This is 375 acres that was annexed to the city after the Six Day War of 1967. The construction plan for Givat Hamatos was approved three years ago. The plan consists of 2,600 housing units for the Jewish population and 600 units earmarked for young people from the Arab population.
Also of note is construction at Atarot in the northeast of the city. Here, too, the project concerns land annexed to Jerusalem after the Six Day War. Under the plan, 15,000 housing units will be built for the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) population, which will create a continuous belt of Haredi neighborhoods north of Jerusalem, joining such neighborhoods as Ramat Shlomo. Last week, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee approved the construction of 560 housing units in Haredi neighborhoods in Ramot and Ramat Shlomo.
The Ultra-Orthodox Jew (Haredi) Question
Then the article offers hints about the internal frictions of Israel: “The municipality thus hopes to encourage Haredi households in secular neighborhoods in Jerusalem to move to new parts of the city that will suit them better from the point of view of the characteristics of the population.”
The following video from Young Turks puts color on the Ultra-Orthodox Jew question. They refuse military service, many refuse to work but collect welfare, are over-the-top misogynists, spit on the less observant and, in general, are ne’er-do-wells that other Israelis “do not want in their neighborhoods.”
Generally, population trends in Israel reflect distinct patterns of three sub-groups: Non-Haredi Jews (around 63.3% of the population), Haredi Jews (11.7%), and Arabs (20.7%). The non-Haredi group is only growing at 1.2%. The Arabs are growing at 2.1%. But the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews have high fertility rates at 5.0%.
According to Pew Research, although they live in the same small country and share many traditions, the highly religious and the secular Jews (40%) inhabit largely separate social worlds, with relatively few close friends and little intermarriage outside their own groups. In fact, the survey finds that secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian.
Additionally, the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox push the concept that Israel should be a theocracy. Most of the ultra-Orthodox say that “being Jewish” is mainly a matter of religion, while secular Jews tend to say it is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. The compromise seems to be to segregate these two populations. The method, because of high population densities, is to push for new settlements in the West Bank (for the Arabs to deal with) to accommodate the rapidly growing Orthodox population.
Pew’s research also points to a split on how to do this. Nearly half of Israeli Jews say Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, with roughly one out of five hardline Jewish adults strongly agreeing with this position. Two-thirds of Israeli Jews (67%) say all of their friends are Jewish. In practice, the majority of Israeli Jews (whether Orthodox or secular) are segregationists and, in fact, expulsionists, with many being hardcore. That extends to segregate the ne’er-do-well Orthodox from the secular Jews.
Basically, it appears that a settlement push for the purpose of accommodating and separating the hardline Orthodox is the driving force. But there are still enough secular Jews who claim to be democratic and less racist that it must be based upon rule of law. In other words, Israelis are not monolithic, and the ultra-Orthodox group complicates things. Even a right-wing Likudnik like Bibi is caught in the middle concerning just how much Arab land to grab at this time.
This “all about appearances” aspect may give readers of The New Nationalist an interpretive framework for Trump’s bad-cop routine as it’s employed as part of a larger chessboard scheme.