The Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El.
The Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El. Photo by Emil Salman
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In the printed version of Monday's High Court of Justice decision reiterating the order to vacate Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, there's something interesting about the punctuation: Two sentences end with both a question mark and an exclamation point, something rare, if not unprecedented, in a court document.

"Does the state, every time a new policy is considered, plan to ask the court to reopen proceedings that have ended in a ruling?!" wrote court President Justice Asher Dan Grunis, who also wondered, "What ... would be the reason for providing the exceptional remedy of reopening a legal proceeding .. in which the state has committed to act in a certain fashion?!"

On the one hand, one must welcome the court's decision to reject the request to reopen the hearing on Ulpana Hill, which reinforces not only the finality of court decisions but reinforces the basic principle of carrying them out.

On the other hand, if in the case of Migron, the fact that there had to be a petition to the High Court to enforce a previous court ruling demonstrated the degree to which the occupation tramples on equal rights and the rule of law, in the Ulpana case there's been an even further slide down the slippery slope.

Here the High Court had to deal with a specific request from the state not to obey a ruling it received.

So while it looks like the High Court was defending the rule of law, woe unto a generation that needs the High Court to tell the government that it's meant to obey its rulings. No wonder the High Court had to append exclamation points to its question marks.

But the biggest question mark of all still remains: Will the structures built on private Palestinian land near Beit El be demolished by July 1, the date the court set? Migron, don't forget, is meant to be dismantled by August 1.

This means that on the eve of general elections, the government is going to have to twice demolish buildings and evacuate settlers from private Palestinian land. If the government would prefer not to obey these rulings for political reasons, there are three possible scenarios.

The first could be a horrific one, in which despite the High Court's unequivocal rulings the government simply doesn't implement them, in what would be a total trampling of the rule of law. A second possibility is that the government would seek more extensions from the High Court, though based on its recent rulings it isn't likely the court will agree.

The third scenario is that in an effort to codify the theft, various elements will try to pass "High Court bypass" laws that would retroactively legalize those outposts built on private Palestinian land. In such an instance, the High Court would once again be called upon to decide if such laws are constitutional, or if they contravene the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.

At issue is not just the rule of law in its formal sense, which was at least defended this time, but also the substance of the rule of law, which continues to be crushed.

It's clear that the violations of law in these cases and the efforts to avoid carrying out the court rulings stems from the fact that these lands belong to Palestinians, and in this context, as in many others, the government relates to Palestinian rights as negatable.

One must recall that the rulings on Migron and Ulpana Hill represent the tip of the iceberg of government land grabs in the territories. The Spiegel Report, which was prepared based on Civil Administration data and revealed by Haaretz three years ago, found that in more than 30 settlements there had been extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Let's not delude ourselves that the cases that have reached the High Court of Justice will solve the deeper, much more serious problem.