| The Rose Report |

At Risk in Chareidi Communities?

This scenario, farfetched as it seems, could potentially unfold in Judea and Samaria


he following scenario is a dramatization.

A new refugee crisis breaks out in the Middle East.

More than 500,000 Jewish men, women, and children are forcibly evacuated from their homes in more than 150 communities in Israel. The throngs of refugees are transferred to hastily assembled tent cities adjacent to already overcrowded urban areas.

Mass protests before the evacuations receive minimal media coverage. Despite the obvious human rights violations, the High Court refuses to intervene in what it terms a foreign policy dispute. The international community, which heaped sympathy on Arab refugees from Gaza months earlier, hails the onset of a new era of peace and tags the Jewish evacuees as lawbreakers.

This scenario, farfetched as it seems, could potentially unfold in Judea and Samaria if the international community coalesces to compel Israel to accept a comprehensive agreement establishing a Palestinian state. In return, Arab and Muslim nations led by Saudi Arabia would grant diplomatic recognition to Israel, ending the war on Hamas, freeing the Israeli hostages held in Gaza, not to mention springing several thousand convicted Arab terrorists from Israeli prisons.

According to figures published last week by the West Bank Jewish Population Stats website, some 170,000 of Judea and Samaria’s 517,000 Jews, or one-third, are chareidi, living mainly in Beitar Illit and Modiin Illit. An additional 340,000 Jews — also predominantly chareidi — live in Jerusalem neighborhoods built beyond the Green Line after 1967. Bear in mind that when the government of Ariel Sharon evacuated some 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif in the 2005 disengagement, no replacement housing was prepared for them in advance.

Previous proposals for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, including the Oslo Accords and President Trump’s “deal of the century,” allowed Israel to maintain settlement blocs in which approximately 90% of those Jewish residents reside. While the Biden administration might retain that option, Dr. Aaron Lerner, founder of the Kfar Saba–based Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA), has learned that the administration is considering three different maps, one of which would impose borders for a Palestinian state by restoring the pre-1967 Green Line, with Jerusalem divided.

While the State Department, under the Trump administration, declared that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria do not violate international law, the Biden administration is reportedly considering reversing that stance. Jewish residents of newly declared “illegal settlements” could face financial sanctions similar to the ones Biden imposed by executive order last week, freezing bank accounts of a handful of “settlers” it accused of violent acts in the West Bank against Palestinians.

Worst-case scenarios such as these don’t often play out and Netanyahu’s war cabinet is doing its best to ensure it doesn’t, voting unanimously on Sunday — with support from Benny Gantz — for a declaration rejecting any international unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

While the cabinet left the door open for negotiations, without preconditions, Netanyahu accepted a recommendation from Gantz’s National Unity party colleague Yifat Shasha-Biton intended to clarify that Israel’s number one goal is to finish off Hamas and only negotiate later “to the extent that such an arrangement can be achieved.”

Jack Lew, the American ambassador to Israel, denied that the US plans to impose a settlement on Israel, but the situation is very much in flux. The Israeli government must maintain this kind of forceful, outspoken, and unbending unity to avoid being blindsided by fantasy peace plans and to ensure that no one looks for weak spots to drive a wedge between them.


Trump’s Good News, Bad News

People who cheer for Donald Trump and those who jeer at him both have reasons to celebrate.

Starting with good news for the boo-birds: Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron plunged Trump into a deep financial hole with his ruling on Friday. Engoron fined Trump $355 million after finding that Trump and the Trump Organization committed financial fraud by inflating the value of his assets on documents he submitted to banks and financial institutions.

On top of previous judgments in two other civil cases, Trump is now on the hook for close to half a billion dollars. Even if he decides to appeal all of the rulings, legal experts say Trump will be required to deposit 110% to 120% of the amount of the fines into an escrow account to guarantee payment if he loses on appeal.

It’s not clear whether Trump has the cash on hand, or if he will be forced to sell liquid assets, or if he will have to ante up properties. Either way, it’s a major blow to his business interests. Engoron’s decision also bars Trump from conducting any business in the state for the next three years.

Trump supporters, on the other hand, found reasons to be cheerful in Georgia. A judge there is expected to rule in the next two weeks whether to force the district attorneys prosecuting Trump for alleged voter fraud to recuse themselves from the case.

Trump and 18 other co-defendants face racketeering charges for their alleged attempt to overturn the results of Georgia’s vote count in the 2020 presidential election, in which Biden bested Trump by less than 12,000 votes.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee will rule whether District Attorney Fani Willis had a conflict of interest in the case. Trump’s defense attorneys argued that Willis hired a close friend of hers as a special prosecutor who then used money from his taxpayer-funded salary to take vacations with her. Willis testified that she shared expenses with the prosecutor, whom she always reimbursed in cash, which is why she doesn’t have the receipts to prove it.

Even if Judge McAfee forces Willis and her colleague out, underlings will step in to continue the case against Trump. However, the prosecutors’ reputations have been tarnished, which aids Trump’s contention that the allegations against him are part of a political witch hunt by unscrupulous accusers.

In the meantime, Trump’s inexorable march continues toward the Republican presidential nomination in July. Trump’s lead over Nikki Haley in Saturday’s South Carolina primary has shrunk to between 22% and 29% in the latest polls before press time, but it’s hard to see Haley staying in the race after a large, double-digit drubbing in the state where she was once a popular governor.

It doesn’t get any easier after that. Haley trails Trump by 50% to 60% in Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday, February 27; and by 70% in Missouri, which caucuses on March 2.

With Trump looking unbeatable in the Republican court of public opinion, it’s no wonder that his opponents and detractors hope that the courts of law will prove to be the final arbiters.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1000)

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