In the Likud leadership contest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has portrayed himself as the antithesis of his challenger, the Jewish Leadership faction's Moshe Feiglin, who represents extremists among West Bank settlers. But Netanyahu's policy on settlements and unauthorized West Bank outposts, as with his "peace policy," shows that he deserves the loyalty of those extremists no less than Feiglin does.
At a time when he is making flowery speeches about his commitment to a two-state solution, Netanyahu hasn't spared any effort to create facts on the ground that make a fair and rational division of the West Bank and East Jerusalem more remote. Netanyahu isn't the first prime minister who, during negotiations with the Palestinians, has taken care of the settlements and channeled public funds to them. Since the 1970s, Israel has declared about 900,000 dunams (about 225,000 acres ) "state lands" in order to allocate them to the settlements.
Netanyahu hasn't just made do with an outdated Ottoman law to entrench Israeli control over the West Bank. He has cooperated with lawbreakers who have taken control of private Palestinian land and set up communities there without permits from the defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces' Civil Administration.
To advance his policy and satisfy the settlers, Netanyahu has often invented ways to bypass High Court rulings and make a mockery of what remains of the rule of law in the territories. At the beginning of the week, he created a committee of jurists headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy to "examine policy tools and operating principles on construction in Judea and Samaria whose status is not regularized."
Among the matters the committee will consider is how to get illegal outposts out from under High Court evacuation orders. In this way, the prime minister seeks to bypass the State Prosecutor's Office and the Civil Administration, which more than once have pledged to the High Court that its rulings would be honored.
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