Editorial

Voting 'Yes' for Theft

If the vote takes place, the majority of our lawmakers will raise their hands to approve a bill that will steal land from Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Haim Horenstein

Assuming that the Knesset vote takes place today as scheduled, the state legislature is going to stain itself dreadfully when it approves what’s been dubbed the “regularization law,” meant to retroactively legalize illegally built homes in the West Bank. The name of the bill is misleading, and not by coincidence. The bill doesn’t aim to “regularize” but to steal.

If the vote takes place, the majority of our lawmakers will raise their hands to approve a bill that will steal land from Palestinians. The theft will come after the fact; to accommodate settlements and outposts that were built on private land, the land will be expropriated from its owners, while the thieves living on it will be granted “the presumption of innocence.”

To grant this theft a veil of equitableness, Palestinians who can prove ownership will receive increased financial compensation.

The proud leader of this thievery is the Habayit Hayehudi party. As far as the members of this nationalist religious party are concerned, there is no area in the Land of Israel that belongs to non-Jews. That’s also why there’s no point in talking in terms of theft, stealing or expropriation; all we have here is a “misunderstanding” that needs to be “regularized.”

Heading this band of thieves is Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. The education minister tried to bow and scrape last week before the Amona evacuees, who complained about his inability to prevent their eviction, by promising that the expropriation law would be voted on today, thus “putting an end to the method of legal displacement.”

Bennett is not alone in his struggle against the “method of legal displacement.” He is backed by party colleague Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who won’t let trivialities stop the robbery convoy from barreling forward.

The fact that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit refuses to defend such theft if it gets challenged in court doesn’t deter her. Shaked has found a solution: a private attorney will represent the government.

So that’s how it is. To authorize land theft in the occupied territories the justice minister is prepared to smash the country’s legal norms with her own hands.

And as if to threaten the High Court of Justice, which will probably be asked to rule on this unconstitutional law, the woman meant to defend it delivered the following warning: “If the regularization law is invalidated, there is a series of administrative decisions that the attorney general has already made and stands behind that regularizes most of the settlements.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that this bill is immoral, unconstitutional and will certainly do Israel great damage internationally. Netanyahu also knows that the law will be struck down by the High Court of Justice, which will then be smeared mercilessly by the settler right and its Knesset representatives.

Netanyahu is trapped; he knows that the good of the country requires that the bill be buried for good, but on the other hand, he hears MK Betzalel Smotrich declare that “if the regularization bill doesn’t come up [for a vote] on Monday, there will be no government.”

And if there’s one thing that Netanyahu’s long years at the helm have proven, it’s that when asked to choose between the good of the country and his political survival, the country will always come second.