Why Is Israel Blatantly Breaking U.S. Rule on Settlements?

Even ardent Netanyahu supporters in Washington won't accept new settlement building plan.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak most certainly knows better than anyone else that there is no chance of the U.S. accepting the Migron-Adam deal, put forth by the Defense Ministry on Monday before the Supreme Court. Even those who claim that the Bush administration allowed them to continue building to meet the needs of "natural growth" in settlement blocs know fully well that the exchange deal, offering Adam for Migron, would be inacceptable to even the most ardent Netanyahu supporters in Washington.

The deal is not about additional construction inside the built-up area of an existing settlement, nor is it about adding additional floors to buildings; according to the plan brought before the court, 50 families from Migron are supposed to move to a new neighborhood, located on a relatively large parcel of land outside the built-up area of the Adam settlement. This proposal blatantly contradicts the iron-clad American rule - an integral part of the road map - that the area of settlements should in no way be expanded.

Moreover, according to the documents presented to the court, aside from requesting building permits for 50 new housing units, the defense minister last month also approved the detailed planning for constructing an initial total of 200 housing units; all part of the general construction blueprint for an additional 1450 units in Adam.

Eitan Broshi, the defense minister's aide for settlement affairs, argued Monday that this was part of a plan that had been approved by a previous government during the late 1990s. However, if the decisions of previous governments to expand settlements or to build new ones pave the way for the infusion of ever more settlers into the territories, there is no point to the commitment to freeze construction and to haggle over "natural growth." Such earlier decisions allow Israel to place a settlement under any tree located in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Barak was quick to present the plan to evacuate Migron and build at Adam as an effort meant to deter a petition by Peace Now, scheduled to be brought before the court Monday. The defense minister's aim is to gain more time. In any case, the Defense Ministry argues, the construction of the new neighborhood in Adam will take at least two years - a decent amount of quiet time. Barak based his gamble on the images of the violent evacuation of the Amona outpost and is hoping that the justices will be deterred from another clash with the settler-invaders, and will jump at the opportunity to put the whole matter to rest for a long time.

But it can also fairly be assumed that the justices have heard the announcement of the Migron settlers, who have said that the deal struck between Barak and the Yesha Council of settlements does not apply to them and that they have no intention whatsoever of leaving their homes for any "kosher" settlement.