Amona Is Not an Only Child

December 8, 2003: Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz convenes the heads of the Yesha Council and presents them with a plan to evacuate in the near future eight illegal outposts in the West Bank, including the Migron outpost near the settlement of Beit El. Migron broke ground in May 2001, and the road map stipulated: "Government of Israel immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

March 13, 2005: The Israeli government issues a statement that it "attaches great importance to dealing with the findings and recommendations in attorney Talia Sasson's legal opinion regarding the unauthorized outposts." The end of the statement mentions that Israel will meet its commitment under the road map. One of the appendices to the Sasson report, which the government did not release for publication, states that Migron was erected without any authorization - on private Palestinian land. It turned out the Construction and Housing Ministry had paid NIS 4,350,000 to set up infrastructure and public buildings in the illegal outpost, erected on stolen land.

January 2006: Migron has 150 residents living in 51 trailers, and the ground is being prepared for additional structures. There is a paved road, a synagogue in a permanent building, a safety shelter and water tower. Besides Migron, Sasson listed 23 outposts that were erected after March 2001, and only two of them were not erected - completely or partially - on private land. More than 600 people live at these outposts. On top of the "new" ones, Sasson counted 61 illegal outposts that were established in the 1990s, some during the days the Labor Party was in power.

In other words, Amona is not an only child. The only visible reason why the little outpost was accorded special treatment is Peace Now's petition to the High Court of Justice. On Tuesday, the court ordered a stop to construction work in the Matityahu East neighborhood of the settlement Modi'in Ilit - once again in response to a Peace Now petition. The State Prosecutor's Office, Defense Ministry, Civil Administration, not to mention the local council - none of these bodies lifted a finger when before their very eyes, over many months, an entire neighborhood arose without building permits, on lands that some of which, if not most, belong to residents of the village Bil'in, or that were purchased by means of documents suspected of being fake. The eviction of the Jewish squatters in Hebron is another case that shows that nothing has changed since the government of Israel "adopted" the Sasson report.

In practice, the Palestinians and the law are in worse shape since the Sasson report was published; the Israel Defense Forces and Civil Administration are stricter about enforcing the trailer transport regulations, and have stopped several movers en route to the existing outposts or intent on erecting a new one. The settlers found a simple method for circumventing the obstacle: instead of sneaking in trailers, they ensure a steady supply of construction materials and build firm permanent homes. "The cats" - regional council heads like, say, Pinhas Wallerstein, whose salaries are paid by the tax payer to uphold the law - take care of supplying the cream: roads, lighting, vital equipment and ongoing budget.

Amona is the exception that proves the rule - that Israel upholds the law in the territories only on those rare occasions when the court forces it to do so. The High Court's decision to demolish the nine buildings makes for a painful mockery, but it comes in time for the Kadima government. The violent confrontation with the settlers, whom most of the public loves to hate recently, portrays Olmert "in Sharon's light." Who remembers that the ministerial committee headed by Tzipi Livni was supposed to present to the government, more than four months ago, a series of recommendations for implementing the Sasson report?