Netanyahu and Barak
Photo by Eran Wolkowski
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As might have been expected, the government's decision to inform the Supreme Court of its intention to immediately demolish all unauthorized settler outposts on privately-owned Palestinian land (except for the home of the late Maj. Eliraz Peretz ) has aroused the rage of settlers and their patrons in the Knesset.

The right wing has learned that in most cases a combination of violent demonstrations and political pressure is enough to turn such decisions into requests that the Supreme Court instead allow the outposts to remain, and to continue to turn a blind eye to their expansion.

The commitment of the Netanyahu government to the Quartet headed by the U.S. (and including the EU, the UN and Russia ), to dismantle all the outposts erected since March 2001, is what has actually been trampled by the bulldozers, which are clearing the way for new housing in the outposts right under the noses of law enforcement officials.

The new decision does not point to a significant change in the approach to law enforcement in the occupied territories; like its predecessors, it was made in the wake of petitions to the Supreme Court by human rights organizations, filed in the name of Palestinians who claimed they were robbed of their lands, in order to build more outposts or expand existing ones.

Israeli governments have been ignoring the principal recommendations of the special report on unauthorized outposts requested by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ever since former senior prosecutor Talia Sasson presented it to his government six years ago. The Defense Ministry confirms that no more than four illegal outposts have been evacuated since. According to Peace Now, about 44 percent of the land on which the outposts sit is private land owned by Palestinians.

The government's decision also does not indicate a change in diplomacy with regard to Israel's hold on the territories, whose fate stands at the heart of negotiations for a final settlement based on a two-state solution. At the same government meeting in which the decision to evacuate some outposts was made, the prime minister made the excuse that the difficulty in advancing settlement construction was indicative of "a very difficult international reality." At the same time, Netanyahu instructed the defense minister to move forward with planning that would allow the authorization of construction in other settlements.

The rule of law in a democratic state demands the dismantlement of all the outposts. The preservation of the Jewish character of Israel demands a complete freeze on all the settlements in the territories, until the close of negotiations on their fate.