Settlers No Longer Look to Israel, or Its Laws

There, beyond the Green Line, there are norms taking root that render Israeli courts impotent. Over there, the new real estate laws and symbols of the State of Israel are being created. Judea and Samaria, as we have been taught, is here.

It's time to put some things in order. Very minor things. Nothing comparable to the huge settlement enterprise and tremendous violations which have been part of it and continue to be part of it.

After the settlers and the State of Israel divvied up the West Bank; after 99, or was it 88, or perhaps 105 (it depends on whom you ask ) illegal outposts were set up there; after their number somehow shrank to 26 as a result political-mathematical machinations whereby Israel only recognized the illegality of outposts created after 2001, and then went on to reduce that figure to 16 and further down to nine, and these, too, are awaiting an extention "in order to establish priorities for evacuation"; and after the government explained to the High Court that it was not able to evacuate these outposts because it was too busy enforcing the ban on new construction during the settlement freeze, especially since there are more than 350,000 settlers living in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem ) - only two issues remain that any old real estate agent could solve in a minute. One is Beit Yonatan in Silwan, and the other is the Peretz and Klein family homes in the illegal outposts of Givat Hayovel and Hersha near Eli.

It's not clear what the fuss is all about. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat proposed a reasonable real estate swap: Beit Yonatan would not be evacuated or sealed, and in exchange, the municipality would delay the evacuation of the Abu Na'eb home were Palestinians live. A house in which Jews live illegally will be exchanged for a house in which Palestinians live illegally.

Who cares if the court ordered Beit Yonatan sealed? Wouldn't it be a shame to ruin such a large and beautiful house? And since when is a court ruling the end of the road? Even the Supreme Court knows that its decisions are merely recommendations. In any case, hasn't the court itself approved extensions time and again? It, too, should have concluded a while back that the law is a nice thing, but the phrase "government of law" is like the phrase "Jewish and democratic." First you have the government, and then you have the law; just like first it is Jewish, and then it is democratic. The outcry over the illegal dwellings of the Peretz and Klein families is beside the point. True, the court ruled in their case back in 2001. But that didn't stop another four houses from being built in this outpost or those who built them from receiving NIS 77,000. Neither did it prevent them from ignoring the demolition orders issued in 2005 or requesting deferments. And now they're saying the demolition order can't be implemented because these are the homes of soldiers killed in action.

Clearly, this has nothing to do with housing solutions. It's all about the symbols. Take, for example, Beit Yonatan, named after Jonathan Pollard, another icon.

It turns out there is such a thing as lucky buildings. These are buildings that despite numerous construction violations and unlawful takeovers still enjoy protection. As if the act of being named renders them sites for preservations. Just like Beit Bialik, Beit Anna Ticho, and Beit Chelouche - Beit Yonatan, Beit Peretz and Beit Klein also have names and status, and you might say, a halo around them.

The truth is that all this could have worked out just fine had it not been for the State of Israel, that other Jewish state situated next to the settler state, whose citizens happen to be bound by the same laws and the same courts. It happens to be a naive state that still believes in the rule of law and is terrified of the possibility that all the housing violations so common in the occupied territories may trickle and take hold in its own territory as well. It is terrified at the prospect that citizen Cohen from Gedera, who has built an illegal porch in Beit Cohen will demand equal treatment to the residents of Beit Yonatan. It is terrified at the prospect that Shapira, the squatter from the Tel Aviv Shapira neighborhood, will demand that the squatter in the apartment next door be evicted as long as he can continue living illegally in his own apartment. This has nothing to do with logic or justice, but everything to do with the principle of equality before the law - the citizens of Israel will feel they are as entitled to violate the law as the settlers.

All too quickly it is becoming clear that the settlement culture is shaping the face of the State of Israel. There, beyond the Green Line, there are norms taking root that render Israeli courts impotent. Over there, the new real estate laws and symbols of the State of Israel are being created. Judea and Samaria, as we have been taught, is here.