One might expect that in a law-abiding, principled country the authorities would deal forcefully and resolutely with the practice of building settlement outposts on private Palestinian land. This practice was revealed in all its ugliness in the High Court of Justice petitions against Migron and Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood. But the Netanyahu-Barak government has once again proved that when it comes to the settlement enterprise even the most heinous crime can be justified.
In Tuesday's Haaretz, Chaim Levinson exposed the details of a plan whose purpose is to enable settlers to register land in the territories in their names. The goal is to circumvent the official Israeli land registry (Tabu ) and prevent Palestinians with claims to the property from challenging the validity of the ownership registration.
Since 1967 settlers and companies have taken control of thousands of acres in the West Bank, often through dubious means, with the blessing of the authorities. A 2004 report compiled for the Defense Ministry by Brig. Gen. (res. ) Baruch Spiegel documented dozens of settlements and outposts that were built on private Palestinian land. In March 2005 attorney Talia Sasson issued a similar report listing all the unauthorized outposts that were established on land stolen that was from its owners. The state comptroller has also documented the unacceptable practice of transferring land owned by Palestinians living overseas to settlers, primarily in the Jordan Valley.
The same judicial and security agencies that excel in failing to enforce the law against settlers are now proposing that the government extend its patronage to all these cases of criminal invasion and deny the Palestinians all right of appeal. Only Jews would be eligible for the fast-track registration. Palestinians would remain bound by Jordanian law, which requires proof of ownership in the form of documents and other evidence.
Registering settlers' rights to West Bank land is additional evidence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fine words about a two-state solution and his desire to resume negotiations with the Palestinians are mere lip service. We can only hope that all his senior coalition partners, and above all Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who bears direct responsibility for the occupied territories, will refuse to cooperate with this maneuver.
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