Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gov't Report Reveals Corruption at Highest Levels

With Israeli elections just around the corner, we can safely assume that all major political developments are at least in part one group or another's attempt to win favor with the electorate. Operation Cast Lead was one example of political maneuvering, and quite possibly the most significant one of this election. It has seemed to achieve its goals of creating a sense of national unity, feelings of patriotism, and a strong distrust of outsiders and their criticisms. In short, the country has been put in a war mood.

This is good for Prime Minister candidate Bibi Netanyahu, who has already held the office from 1996 to 1999, as leader of the conservative Likud party. Support for the latest Gaza war and Israelis' tendency to go insular when they are threatened has made his success much more likely.

This could be the reason a secret government report revealing settlement construction to be illegal and corrupted has recently been released, even though it was completed over two years ago. What's more is that the research was done by the Israeli government and at the behest of former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, another right-wing candidate for Prime Minister in this election.

Ha'aretz writes:
An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued.
Now, let's deconstruct this in order to fully realize the significance. Building without permits is a pretty piddly violation. If building without permits was the only accusation we could make against the Israeli government, I wouldn't have anything to write about. What makes this significant is that Palestinian homes built without permits are demolished, oftentimes without warning, meaning the residents not only lose their home, but many of their possessions as well. Before the appearance of this report, government spokesmen could make all the excuses they want about these demolitions, but now, they can no longer claim Palestinians receive equal treatment in this regard.

Moving on:
The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.
The government admits that it knowingly builds on the property of the West Bank's Palestinian residents.

The Ha'aretz article, besides a summary of the report, includes interviews with settler leaders and Housing Ministry officials. Not surprisingly, they all pass the buck higher and higher, until it becomes clear that decisions regarding the illegal building come from the very heights from which the order to compile the report was given. Nevermind why Shaul Mofaz would order a report written that could very well cost him the election, the question is: who released the report to the public, two years after its completion?

The answer, if I may speculate, comes from the left. If Operation Cast Lead hurt Tzipi Livni's chances in the election, this report does the same to her right-wing competitors. If the electorate knows their government is out looking for trouble, support of the Gaza war could wane, thus giving Livni the boost she needs at the polls.

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