Legitimizing a Crime

The hilltop on which the illegal outpost Givat Hayovel sits will be a busy place in the coming days, and not because you can see the Jordan Valley from there. Its height is expected to be the next excuse for legitimizing an illegal act carried out there. The Israel Defense Forces will tell the High Court of Justice that the hill is a "commanding height" where the IDF's presence is essential. So it's important to set up a community there.

This is a kind of magic act - the IDF has discovered that it needs these sites just when it has to raze the homes of two officers killed in battle - majors Eliraz Peretz and Ro'i Klein. There is no better combination than "commanding heights" and bereavement to legitimize a crime. Not only did the chief of staff promise to do everything to gain the necessary authorization to prevent the razing of the homes, but even Peace Now, in a humanitarian gesture, withdrew its petition on demolishing the officers' homes.

Indeed, there is a price for foot-dragging. Givat Hayovel was set up in 1998 and declared illegal in 2001. Nonetheless, in 2003 more homes were built there, and Peace Now filed its petition in court only two years later. The state responded that it was preparing a list of priorities on razing the homes, but these preparations have apparently become a drawn-out historical phenomenon.

In 2009 the High Court's patience ran out and it ordered the government to tell the court by May 1 when it planned to raze the outpost. But how can the homes be razed during a time of mourning? And what about the statute of limitations? After all, 12 years have passed since the law was broken. Even U.S. President Barack Obama certainly understands that some things you can't do to bereaved families.

The homes of Peretz and Klein should not be destroyed. In fact, no illegal outpost should be razed, no pathetic little prefab home sneaked in during the night, or a porch in a settlement closed off without the proper permits. The battle for the illegal outposts has no point in the absence of a defined and approved political plan that will determine the final borders of the State of Israel.

Without such a policy, any declarations or actions on destroying the outposts, in their entirety or isolated homes, are acts of make-believe by the authorities. Such demolitions only deepen the distinction being made between the legal and illegal settlements; this distinction is unacceptable as long as there is no agreement on where Israeli law may be applied and where the country's borders are.

The dispute over the legality of the construction is a trick, just like the excuse over the essence of the "commanding heights." You can't fight terrorist cells from commanding heights, just as Jewish settlements don't provide security but are a security burden. "Legality" and "security needs" were the original sin that created yet another Israeli state in the territories - a lawless state that is dressing up as a legal entity under cover of Israeli law, which sneaked in cloaked by military orders.

The humanitarian gestures - honoring the dead, pity for the families - are part of the same tricks. No one prevented the IDF from razing structures in 2001 and no one is preventing them from razing illegal structures in other outposts where no officers were killed. The difference now is that ignoring the High Court - something that has been part of government policy for the past nine years - has suddenly been boosted by compassion.

It would be best if the defense minister told the High Court that he has never intended to raze structures - whether of the bereaved families or anyone else, Jew or Arab - until a map of the state's borders is drawn. The freeze on settlement construction should also be immediately canceled. It has become an alternative to the political process, which has been replaced by negotiations between Israel and the United States over the construction freeze. It has been turned into a test of "national pride."

The legal debate has no place in this and is no more than a weak barrier that every clever security excuse can bring down. As long as the defense minister and his colleagues in the Labor Party continue to offer cover to the sloppy minuet that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dancing - and which is pushing Israel off a cliff - and continue to legitimize the settlements, they are part of this trickery. They are allies in the contempt of the High Court and groundbreakers for the strategic confrontation with the United States.