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It is no wonder that the settlers are having fits. For almost 40 years they have been enjoying an ongoing supply of political and economic support, military protection and legal backing. And then one fine day, without prior warning, someone decided to turn off the faucet. Senior politicians, headed by the acting prime minister - who used to run all over the world in order to raise contributions for them - are suddenly turning their backs on them. Army and police officers, their former allies, are attacking them with truncheons. Lawyers who defended them from leftist organizations are suddenly asking the High Court of Justice to reject their petitions. The High Court justices, who gave a seal of approval for the theft of lands with the excuse of "security considerations", or "state lands", refused this time to provide a refuge for them.

But like the treatment of alcoholics, the secret of success in curing the settlers of their addiction to power depends on a systemic approach. The rehabilitation will be much more effective if state authorities abandon the policy of winking, and instead look the settlers in the eye and inform them in unequivocal terms that the party is over; next time the state will not wait for Peace Now to evacuate the land robbers from private Palestinian land; and from here on in, the Israeli government will in fact keep its commitment to freeze the settlements, and will no longer provide support and money for the establishment of settlement sites camouflaged as new "neighborhoods."

In order for the settlers as well as the army and the police to be convinced that the mounted policemen were not only extras in an elections display, the government's leadership must begin a thorough cleaning of its stables. The filth is evident to everyone. One can come across it by randomly opening one of the state comptroller's annual reports. For example, the 2003 report says that 18 of 33 sites in the territories for which the Ministry of Construction and Housing signed construction and development contracts with local authorities, were not under the jurisdiction of any settlement upon which the government had decided. In two instances, the ministry funded the paving of a road and the construction of a building in places where the Civil Administration had issued demolition orders.

The state comptroller complains that "at a time when one governmental arm - the Housing Ministry - is investing its resources in construction and development work at settlement sites in the Judea and Samaria area that do not have legal construction permits, another government arm - the Civil Administration - is investing its resources in order to locate illegal construction and to demolish it."

Did anyone have to give an accounting for that at a police station? In fact, what can one expect when the right hand of the police operates in a manner that is opposite to the left hand? Recently it was published that while the police are sent to evacuate settlers from illegal outposts, the police commissioner sees nothing wrong in the fact that a police officer settled in an illegal outpost that was built on private Palestinian land.

A change in policy toward the settlers also requires a change in attitude on the part of the attorney general. Anyone who wants to send the message that the principle of the rule of law does not stop at the Green Line, cannot ask the High Court of Justice to reject a petition regarding an outpost - when the petition itself admits that the outpost is located on stolen land - with the claim that carrying out demolition orders is subject to "political considerations," among other things. Nor can the High Court of Justice be let off scot-free. It is obligated to clarify what those "political considerations" are. Is this a reference to the government's obligation, in the context of the road map, to evacuate all the illegal outposts that were built during the days of Ariel Sharon's government?

Underneath the lamp on Sharon's desk, Talia Sasson's outpost report has been lying for 11 months. The report points to "an ongoing, blatant and institutionalized violation of the law on the part of the institutions themselves." It concludes with the following words regarding the situation: "It can no longer be accepted. It must be reformed, and I believe you have the power to do so."

Except for establishing a ministerial committee headed by then justice minister Tzipi Livni, Sharon did nothing. Will Ehud Olmert follow his path in this matter as well, as he has promised?