Apparently I take a few days off, and Israel descends into anarchy. I am not going to do a thorough rundown of the Ulpana vote and the events leading up to it; Amir Mizroch, Brent Sasley, and Allison Good all have some good thoughts on the subject that you should check out. Instead, I’d like to focus on one limited point, which is the fact that the settler movement has apparently lost all ability to think rationally or logically.
Let’s remember one simple and basic fact: Five homes are being transferred to another neighborhood rather than be demolished, and 300 new homes are being constructed in the settlement to which those five belong. In addition, the government is announcing a tender for 551 new homes in other settlements. With this in mind, here is a selection of some of my favorite rightwing quotes from the past few days. UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler, despite what is taking place right across Israel’s northern border in Syria, dubs Israel “the worst dictatorship ever.” National Union MK Yaakov Katz says that the government displays evil-heartedness in dealing with the settlers. National Union MK Aryeh Eldad said that Likud only pretends to support settlements but actually destroys them at their roots. Finally Likud MK Danny Danon proclaimed the 69-22 vote in the Knesset a travesty of democracy since voters chose Likud and said that the “extreme left” tries to win through the courts rather than by convincing the public come election time (never mind, of course, that Kadima got more votes than Likud at the last election, or that the Ulpana homes are being moved following a Knesset vote confirming the High Court’s order). Up is down. Day is night. Likud hates settlements, and settlers are treated like second class citizens.
As if the rhetorical nonsense was not enough, settlers have marched on Jerusalem, started hunger strikes, flooded MKs with phone calls and texts, and generally acted as if this is the most egregious affront to their existence since the forced evacuations of the Sinai and Gaza. That literally not one building is being demolished and that 850 more are being built is of completely no consequence to them. One would think that Ulpana was the Temple Mount and had some sort of special sacred significance, rather than being a completely random tract of land in a small and otherwise non-descript settlement. This puts an even greater sheen of ludicrousness on Eldad’s mind-blowing statement about how anti-settlement Likud is; the settler movement has become so accustomed to getting every single thing they want from various Likud governments that they have somehow come to believe that the Ulpana decision is an existential crisis. They have won so big, they don’t even realize what a regular win looks like anymore. This is the force that Likud, and Netanyahu in particular, has unleashed, and now the government has to deal with it.
Finally, take note of who voted to legalize Ulpana or did not show up to the vote following Netanyahu’s “vote with me or be fired from your ministerial post” ultimatum. All the usual Likud suspects such as Danon, Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin, and Miri Regev voted against Netanyahu in favor of retroactively legalizing Ulpana, and Silvan Shalom did not show up to the vote. Danon has already threatened the ministers who voted with Netanyahu and said that they are mistaken to believe that Likud voters will have short memories, and settler leaders have been calling Netanyahu a liar and vowing political retaliation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a Likud split is coming, and it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. The hardline settlement supporters simply cannot remain together in a party with the leadership that they have denounced so forcefully and in such harsh terms. When Netanyahu wakes up to the fact that he cannot keep this ungainly ship together, Likud is going to fracture.