Hijacked by Right-wing Extremists, Israel's Ruling Party Goes Bonkers Over Illegal Settlement

Almost all of Likud's 30 Knesset members, ministers and deputy ministers, signed a “petition” to bypass High Court of Justice rulings mandating the evacuation of settlements and outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

The radicalization that has swept the Likud over the last decade, ever since its elected representatives were hijacked by right-wing extremists from West Bank settlements and outposts, received mind-boggling expression this weekend: 25 of the ruling party’s 30 Knesset members, about half of them ministers or deputy ministers, signed a “petition” urging enactment of a law to bypass High Court of Justice rulings mandating the evacuation of settlements and outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land.

The so-called “formalization bill” would allow such land to be retroactively seized for the benefit of Jewish construction. It’s parliamentary hooliganism par excellence, for the glory of the illegal outpost of Amona.

This is no more than a sorry joke, a tasteless parody by a ruling party that has lost all shame and divested itself of any vestige of responsibility, norms and statesmanship. Since when do ministers sign petitions?

And who exactly are they addressing in this letter? The prime minister? The ministerial committee for legislation, on which they sit? Or perhaps it’s meant for the heads of the powerful settler lobby, to whose tune they dance like frightened slaves whose evil master fires bullets between their legs? Actually, he doesn’t need to shoot – holding the gun is enough.

A file photo of the Amona outpost.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The moral, constitutional and political nadir reached by Likud – which has been in power for most of the last four decades, including the past seven years – is underscored by the behavior of two of its coalition partners. Suddenly, Likud is the government’s extreme-right flank. To its right lies, perhaps, only the Tekuma faction of Habayit Hayehudi, a faction comprised of MKs Uri Ariel and Bezalel Smotrich.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beitenu, told a conference in the settlement of Ariel last week that there’s no way to prevent Amona’s evacuation in light of the High Court ruling. Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who lead Habayit Hayehudi, are keeping mum; they, too, understand that the die is cast.

They also understand that the proposed law is nothing but an end-of-days delusion whose chances of passing the Knesset are slim to none. Even if, by mistake, it manages to obtain a majority, the High Court will immediately overturn it, because as Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said, it’s patently unconstitutional.

Not one Likud minister has yet found the courage to tell the settlers what’s clear as day: There will be no such law. Amona will be evacuated and razed, because its houses were built in sin on Palestinian-owned land. And the same fate will befall other settler houses built in violation of the law.

Likud's Tzipi Hotovely, Yoav Kish and Yehudah Glick in Amona. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

When almost all the party’s senior members – including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and moderate ministers Gila Gamliel and Yuval Steinitz – are lining up behind the most extremist position, someone like MK Benny Begin, who is second to none in his commitment to building in the territories but is equally committed to upholding the law, sounds like the radical left.

“This isn’t a formalization law, but a robbery law,” Begin told Israel Radio on Sunday. “Anyone with eyes in his head who wants to deal fairly with others must reject such a bill without awaiting guidance from the attorney general.”

The bill, which the Knesset rejected by a large majority four years ago, is so stupid and absurd that it begs the question, What’s happening to this party? What are they afraid of?

Let’s say Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a jurist, had explained to the settlers that there’s zero chance of the law passing. What would happen to him? They wouldn’t vote for him in the primary? Or Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who in his dreams is already sewing new curtains for the prime minister’s residence – if he hadn’t signed this ridiculous petition, would the settlers refuse to vote for someone who has paved roads to their settlements? And what about Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who’s responsible for law enforcement?

In sports terms, the score is 25-0 – zero for leadership. If they sign a petition in favor of this law, there’s no delusion they won’t sign onto if the settlers and the far right demand it. This is the face of Likud in 2016.

A little reminder: A decade ago, during the 2006 campaign, bulldozers demolished other houses in Amona on the High Court’s orders. Not one Likud MK back then went to the outpost to demonstrate support or clash with the police. Today, to get Likud MKs down from the rooftops of Amona, we need Lieberman and Bennett – the ones who ascended the rooftops to protest the demolition of illegal houses in Beit El.

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