Two years ago an Israeli court sentenced a settler for abducting, stripping naked, beating and then dumping in a ditch a Palestinian teenager. At the time of Zvi Struk’s conviction the judge described the 28-year-old’s actions as particularly brutal because it was the second time the same Palestinian youth was tormented by the Esh Kodesh outpost resident. After Struk’s trial his mother, Orit Struk, helped organize a prison send-off in the West Bank settlement of Shilo, attended by leaders of the Israeli Knesset.
Up until two weeks ago, that was Orit Struk’s claim to fame: defending her son and as a fringe leader in the Land of Israel movement, a rights group for zealous settlers.
But now she is one of two settlers who won first-time seats in Israel’s January elections.
“The lies of the Arabs” are rewarded by the court, Orit told the Jerusalem Post in 2011. She continued,
“The judge preferred the testimony of the prosecution witness, who is a currently standing trial for throwing Molotov cocktails, over that of Zviki Struck, a farmer with no criminal record, who all the character witnesses said was a gentle, responsible and law-abiding citizen.”
Orit Struk. (Photo: Ynet News)
“Orit Struk, who comes from one of the most ideological communities in the West Bank, will have to pass through a checkpoint or two on her commute to her new job in the Knesset,” wrote Ben Sales earlier this week for the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA). In “Meet some of Israel’s diverse new Knesset members” he profiled Struk along with four others. From the JTA:
She lives in Hebron, where she runs the Jewish community’s legal and diplomatic division and has made her home for 30 years.
A mother of 11 and grandmother of 12, Struk also is the founder and chairwoman of Human Rights in Yesha, an organization that advocates for settlers’ rights. In that capacity, Struk has fought against alleged abuse of settlers by soldiers and policemen, and advocated for the rights of those who protested Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Struk, 52, also runs the Land of Israel lobby in the Knesset that fought for settlement expansion and legalizing settlement outposts.
Days before the election, in the wake of the release of a video of Jeremy Gimpel, another Jewish Home candidate, speaking enthusiastically about the Dome of the Rock exploding, Struk said, ‘We pray that the Temple will rise again in Jerusalem.’
Struk at times was described as a liability in Bennett’s campaign to present Jewish Home as an inclusive right-wing party, not a settlers’ party. But in an interview shortly before the election with Israel’s Channel 2, Bennett denied she was a liability.
‘I’m not hiding Orit Struk,’ he said. ‘In every party, people vote with their conscience and it’s OK that among 15 people, we’ll have a representative of the right.’
Because of Struk’s address and the platform of her political party, her take on al-Aqsa Mosque is to be expected. Her party’s leader Naftali Bennett is poison hemlock to the ruling coalition, which is poised to form a government with Yesh Atid, the secularist led by Yair Lapid who is lauded for resurrecting the voice of the moderates in Israel.
Yet settler-turned-Minister of Knesset, Likud’s Moshe Feiglin, is another first time public servant elected in January who also believes in rebuilding a temple on the Muslim holy site. Feiglin’s already caused a stir, praying at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the 19th day of every month. His fervency has incited clashes and he has been arrested for it.
Feiglin is a pragmatist and head of the Jewish Leadership bloc in Likud that develops policy on annexing the West Bank. His cohort, for a third time late last year, attended a conference on strategic planning to legally absorb the West Bank into Israel. Feiglin proposed paying Palestinian families $500,000 for self-deportation. “We can give every family in Judea and Samaria $500,000 to encourage [them] to emigrate … This is the perfect solution for us,” said the Likud minister. Other Likud members spoke, including Zeev Elkin, Yuli Edelstein, Yariv Levin and Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar. The workshops focused on incremental annexation and reduced Palestinian sovereignty to “marginal appendages” of the West Bank, meaning Area A.
MK Yariv Levin advocated a slow but steady de facto annexation of the West Bank, mainly by expanding existing settlements and taking whatever steps were possible to apply laws on Jewish communities beyond the Green Line.
‘In this way, we will try, slowly but surely, to expand the circle of settlements, and to afterwards extend the roads that lead to them, and so forth. At the end of this process, the facts on the ground will be that whatever remains [of the West Bank] will be merely marginal appendages,’ he said.
At the conference, the Likud group favored bloating the number of settlers and regularly re-introducing the notion of annexation until it becomes mainstream. Struk and Feiglin’s victories at the polls are examples of this strategy; but governing a country that Israel has occupied was not questioned. And though the wider public may still need convincing on annexation, settlers are now solid mainstream leaders of the Jewish state.
“This is just the beginning,” said Feiglin to Israel’s Channel 10 during the run-up to the election last November, reported the Times of Israel. “We will build the temple on the Temple Mount and fulfill our purpose in this land.”