In the diplomatic arena, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has excelled mainly at stagnation; in contrast, he has shown excessive creativity when it comes to nurturing the settlements. Every time the judicial system has ordered the removal of an illegal outpost, including those erected on private Palestinian lands, a magical solution has been found to breach the court order.

Over the years, successive Israeli governments have retroactively approved dozens of illegal settlements, many of which were established with its blessing and public money. In cases where the High Court of Justice ordered the evacuation of an outpost built on stolen land, the State Prosecutor's Office pledged to carry out the order. But at the end of last week, the government took another step down the slippery slope of the rule of law related to the land of settlements: Minister Benny Begin pledged to retroactively authorize the outpost of Ramat Gilad, which was established without official approval or involvement of the government.

According to the agreement, which was struck in the shadow of threats by the settlers and their representatives in the Knesset and the government, nine prefabricated buildings built on private land will be moved a few dozen meters, from the hill on which the outpost now stands to "state lands." The legal status of two other structures is to be looked into. As a reward for agreeing not to attack soldiers who were to have evacuated the residents of Ramat Gilad, the state will legalize the rest of the buildings in the outpost, which was established without the approval of the defense minister and without building permits.

In the hands of this government, solutions in the same vein as that offered to Ramat Gilad, which mainly involve moving buildings built on private lands to "state lands," have become instruments to deepen the occupation and obstruct the two-state solution.

Israel is the only country in the world that recognizes the right of its citizens to settle over the Green Line. Based on Ottoman law, Israel has over the years expropriated about a million dunams (250,000 acres) by defining them as "state lands," in order to establish Jewish settlements on them. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has likened Israel to a "villa in the jungle." Nothing is closer to the law of the jungle than a system of distorted laws and procedures that make it possible to build villa neighborhoods in the settlements and legalize wildcat outposts like Ramat Gilad.

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