Evacuate and Be Done With It

It’s time to stop this continuing farce in Amona. The scofflaw homes must be demolished and the theft law must be rejected.

The West Bank settler outpost of Amona, November 29, 2016.
The West Bank settler outpost of Amona, November 29, 2016. Gil Cohen-Magen

The Israeli government is looking more and more like something out of the folk tales of the wise men of Chelm, those good Jews who deliberated, for example, about how to cover tracks in the snow without those doing the erasing leaving their own footprints.

The ministers of the Netanyahu government, with the help of their devoted Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, have been making a tremendous effort to resolve a problem too difficult for politicians from the settler right to bear: How to dismantle homes that were built illegally on private Palestinian land without actually dismantling them.

After a long and embarrassing series of tricks and evasions, the moment of truth has arrived: It’s time to obey the decree of the High Court of Justice, which has ordered the illegal outpost at Amona demolished by the end of December. But in the rivalry between the coalition’s two dominant parties, Likud and Habayit Hayehudi, anything goes.

The heads of the two parties, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, are proud to claim credit for ridiculous ideas for avoiding the decree, while at the same time renouncing responsibility for carrying out the unavoidable. Their poor interpersonal relationship and their competition over “who looks more right wing” in the eyes of the most extreme settlers have exacted a heavy price of contempt for the rule of law, undermining the status of the Supreme Court, and conferring legitimacy on the dangerous trend of making Palestinian property rights in the territories meaningless.

Meanwhile, on the marginal benches of both parties a bill was formulated to circumvent the High Court that has been dubbed the “regularization law.” Ostensibly the Knesset will retroactively legalize the theft of lands owned by Palestinians and provide legal cover for breaking the law. In other words, a law that legalizes lawbreaking. Mendelblit announced that he will not defend the government in court if the bill is passed and then challenged, but his opinion had no influence on the bill’s sponsors.

Now Mendelblit has raised another futile idea for legalizing the illegal, which is not acceptable to those who are meant to be evacuated primarily because it’s temporary – moving Amona’s residents to nearby plots designated as “absentee property” for eight months. All this is an effort to delay the inevitable and provide a victory to the settlers, who in Amona are battling to foil the future evacuation of any settlement or outpost.

Netanyahu’s warning to his ministers that the International Criminal Court in The Hague is likely to prosecute them and him, was meant to remind them that with all due respect to the residents of Amona and their supporters, who are expected to be bused to the site in droves to struggle with the security forces, there are more important considerations at stake. It’s time to stop this continuing farce in Amona. The scofflaw homes must be demolished and the theft law, known by the euphemism “regularization law,” must be rejected.