The Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2003


By Michael Freund

There was something truly sinister about this past Friday's edition of Haaretz, the paper of record of Israel's left.

Although it was the eve of Rosh Hashanah, which is traditionally a time for spiritual introspection and national unity, the editors of Haaretz had other, far less holy thoughts on their minds.

After three months and countless hours of investigation by over a dozen of its top journalists, the paper decided to devote an entire special section of its holiday edition to "The price of the settlements".

The 40-page (!!) pullout, complete with charts, maps and colorful graphs, was clearly designed with one goal in mind: to persuade the Israeli public that the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has been one big, costly mistake.

Haaretz, of course, has every right to adopt such a position, even if it appears to have more in common with Palestinian nationalism than with Zionism.

And, in fact, this has long been the paper's stance, as Editor in Chief Hanoch Marmari himself pointed out in last week's special section. "Since the Six Day War of 1967," Marmori wrote, "Haaretz has published more than 10,000 editorials… Many of them – hundreds – over the years addressed the need to evacuate the settlements in order to make possible the establishment of a viable Palestinian state."

Aside from the questionable methodology employed by the newspaper, which compared the cost of providing services in distant, outlying settlements with those offered in the center of the country, there is something far more disturbing at work here.

After all, what does it say about the Left's worldview when they begin to place a price tag on minority groups within society? Do they mean to suggest that some groups are "worth" the price involved, while others are not?

To appreciate just how chilling this entire approach can be, try replacing the word "settlements" in the Haaretz report with "the elderly", or "Ethiopian immigrants", or "development towns". You would rightly be denounced as heartless or racist or both.

It should go without saying that Israeli citizens over the so-called Green Line are entitled to the same array of government services as their fellow citizens living within pre-1967 Israel. But the entire thrust of the Haaretz report seems aimed at singling out the settlers and effectively presenting them as pricey parasites sucking the country dry.

The result is the demonization of an entire population group, one that loyally serves in the army, pays its taxes and defends the state.

Indeed, the authors of the Haaretz report seem to think that the cost of providing protection to Jewish settlers is the fault of the settlers themselves, rather than of those attacking them.

But that's like blaming the victim of a robbery for the high cost of catching criminals. If Palestinian terrorism did not exist, there would be no need to spend billions defending against it.

Moreover, if we start applying Haaretz' cost-benefit analyses to other parts of the country, what might one conclude about front-line communities such as Kiryat Shmona in the north or Sderot in the south? Are they "worth" the extra defense budgets they require because they sit near a boundary line adjacent to hostile forces?

But, to really grasp the absurdity of all this, just consider an alternative report one could draw up regarding, say, "The Price of the Left".

To begin with, one would have to take into account the billions in shekels that have gone to keep the kibbutzim afloat over the years. In March 1996, the government agreed to a 5.9 billion NIS plan to save some 76 kibbutzim from bankruptcy.

Under the arrangement, the kibbutzim were allowed to write off most of their debt and reschedule the rest over a generous 20-year period, all at taxpayer expense, no less.

This deal came barely 7 years after a December 1989 government rescue plan in which the kibbutzim saw another 1.67 billion NIS written off as well. At the time, the kibbutzim promised not to seek government assistance again in the future.

On top of the "price of the kibbutzim", one should also throw in the cost of Israel's failed socialist system, which was established, cultivated and developed by the Left throughout the decades in which it held power. Punitive tax rates of 50% on individual income, endless bureaucratic red tape and archaic labor laws have all served to stifle Israel's entrepreneurial spirit and energies.

The Left's economic legacy was on display earlier this week, as the Histadrut labor union shut down government offices while customs agents caused a near-riot at Ben-Gurion International Airport due to the work stoppage.

Who knows how many billions have been lost over the years as a result of the Left's mishandling of the economy?

And, while we are on the subject, what about the high cost in blood that the Left's failed peace policies have bequeathed the country? It is thanks to the Oslo Accords that Israel has seen over 1,100 of its citizens murdered in the past decade in Palestinian terror attacks, with thousands of others injured.

The human toll and economic cost of the Left's diplomatic disaster has been, quite simply, incalculable. By bringing the PLO army to our borders, and giving them guns, the Left has imperiled the future of the State, weakening Israel strategically and subjecting it to carnage and conflict.

Add it all together – the kibbutzim, the socialism and Oslo – and the result you get for "The Price of the Left" is a pretty hefty figure, one that almost certainly exceeds the so-called cost of the settlements.

So the next time Haaretz decides to reach for their calculators, they might want to stop and consider the wisdom of such an approach.

Because the numbers, as they say, just don't add up.


The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

() The Jerusalem Post

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