Here's one thing everyone in Israel agrees about: Benny Begin is a very honest guy. His unusual integrity is manifest in the agreement he forged recently with residents of the illegal Migron outpost, allowing them to stay there for three more years and then move to a new outpost to be built on state land. This is an agreement toward which the Supreme Court displayed disdain; the government winked as it signed the document with the settlers, and the agreement even received the blessing of the Knesset's most extreme right-wing member, Minister Daniel Hershkowitz of Habayit Hayehudi. Given the company the agreement kept, what's hard to grasp about the fact that the High Court tossed it out?
The Migron deal ridicules Israel's judicial system, since it stipulates that settlement structures will never be destroyed, despite demolition orders issued against Migron as early as 2006 - and despite the Supreme Court's ruling in August 2011 stipulating that homes on the illegal outpost should be demolished by the end of this month.
With that clear judicial verdict staring straight in his eyes, Begin drafted an agreement saying the settlers should move to a new place of residence in 2015, without any homes being demolished in Migron. The gist of the deal is that the land on which it is built would not be restored to its owners. When the time comes, in another three and a half years, the legal situation would be reviewed, and the government would decide how to act.
The settlers weren't born yesterday; they know exactly how the original settlements were established in Samaria, with the government winking at what their founders were up to. Their plan was to receive a new settlement while also keeping Migron.
It bears mention that the agreement worked out with Begin states that even though the settlers have trespassed illegally on Palestinian land, not only will they evade punishment, they will also receive a valuable gift from the government in the form of a new settlement to be built for them, at a high cost (due to the topography of the area ), just 2 kilometers from Migron. That is to say, the state will compensate offenders who appropriated private lands and established a settlement illegally. That's how crime, punishment and rewards are dealt with by Benny Begin.
And since Israel cannot issue a declaration about the construction of a new settlement, due to assurances given to the American government, the country would perpetrate a new bluff: The new settlement would be defined as part of the existing settlement of Kochav Yaakov, even though it is not adjacent to it and there is no road connecting the two communities. These are the ruses to which the world's last honest man affixed his signature.
The settlers were working on the assumption that in the years to come, there would be new facts on the ground; the new settlement would expand and force the state to relent and allow public activities to be carried out in Migron, in the areas of agriculture, tourism and education. In the end, Migron's buildings and homes would never be demolished.
To remove any doubt, we should emphasize here that we are talking about a settlement that was willfully established on private land owned by residents of two Palestinian villages, Burqa and Deir Dibwan. The land was registered properly until 1967, and the Civil Administration's land registry office holds all relevant documents pertaining to the land deeds; the documents have been presented in court.
Begin said he would not want to see a violent evacuation of settlers, but what exactly is he talking about? This is a situation in which a thief swears he won't return the cash he stole and warns that if someone tries to take it from him, he will run amok. Under such circumstances, what sort of government or police force would acquiesce to the thief's conditions?
Begin believes the government should surrender. When the court asked Begin why he didn't contact the Palestinian complainants and involve them in negotiations for a compromise agreement, he replied that he assumed they would never assent to a compromise. That brings new meaning to the idea of honesty.
Here is the world's last honest man, negotiating with lawbreakers and forging a deal with them at the expense of landowners whose rights continue to be violated. And this honest broker did not feel any need to update the other parties about the harm about to be caused to them.
Beyond these legal and moral dimensions, the issue has crucial political and diplomatic significance. It's no accident that the settlers established Migron deep in the West Bank, on a hill east of Ramallah. They know that this is land that will become part of a Palestinian state under any peace accord, so any new settlement built in the area makes a peace agreement harder to attain.
Leaving Migron intact would encourage additional groups of settlers hoping to set up new illegal outposts, and litter the territories with so many settlements that there would be no hope of working out an accord with the Palestinians. That, after all, is the goal shared by the residents of Migron and the world's last honest man.
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