Opinion

Equality Before the Law Is the Last Thing Israeli Settlers Need

The legal status of Israelis in Israel proper is inferior to that of the settlers, who have won the right to set up wayward communities everywhere, steal private land, and so much more

Settlers in the West Bank during a protest against the evacuation of the illegal outpost of Amona, December 2016.
Ilan Assayag

The Likud Central Committee did a good thing when it forced all its members to strive for the annexation of the entire West Bank. Congratulations are also in order to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who requested and received Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s consent to consider applying all new laws in the settlements.

If we add to this the legislation that allows construction on private Palestinian land in return for compensation, the legislation to annex Ariel University to the Israeli Council for Higher Education (instead of the Council for Higher Education of Judea and Samaria – the West Bank), and the legislation making it hard for businesses to discriminate against the settlements, it seems that soon the legal merger between the two Jewish territorial cultures on both sides of the Green Line will be completed.

It would appear that this accelerated legislative track was intended to equalize the settlers’ legal status with that of the Israelis in Israel proper. After all, “we can no longer accept the situation in which the government answers residents  only in certain regions of the country, while other residents are neglected,” as Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin wrote in a letter to their cabinet colleagues.

This may be how you phrase annexation and the normalization of apartheid, but the truth is, such legislation is a crime against the settlers. After all, the legal status that the settlers enjoy today clearly discriminates against Israelis in Israel proper. While the settlers can make use of three or four legal systems – Jordanian, Ottoman, military and Israeli – non-settlers are chained to Israeli legislation.

Anyone who wants equality before the law must grant everyone the right to set up wayward communities everywhere, steal private land, force the Israel Electric Corporation to install unplanned new high-voltage lines (at the government’s expense), and change neighborhoods’ urban renewal plans in return for an apartment. Also, criminals in Israel proper would be able to demand to be put on trial in a different country, just as criminal settlers can be tried in a country where they don’t live.

After all, there’s no reason to punish the settlers and apply restrictive Israeli law to them, now that decades of criminality and neglect have created a legal reality that can only be envied. It’s a reality in which the ”law” slithers in order to evade the High Court of Justice, legalize neighborhoods and outposts, build bypass roads for those of a certain ethnic background, pass exceptional budgets and close investigations against rioters.

Many years ago, the settlers began a well-financed public relations campaign to “settle in the hearts” – the hearts of Israelis. At the time they wanted to lose their reputation of organized crime, blur their status of stealing from the public purse and being a heavy burden on Israeli society. “Judea and Samaria is here,” they tried to convince us in their demonstrations at major intersections when they begged for recognition.

But for a long time they have no longer needed those slogans – not because they’ve already settled in the hearts but because Judea and Samaria is here. The old Israel is the one knocking at their door and asking them to be taken in its arms.

The settlers are the ones writing Israel’s Basic Laws, designing the way the country looks, marking its enemies at home, sketching out the border between the soft right and the hard right and between left and right, and dictating the political and diplomatic agenda as well as the quality of the country’s international relations.

From now on they will also be Israel’s constitutional court. They will determine which laws are kosher and which are not. Because of them, Israel will become an isolated settlement that wants to be annexed to the country of the settlers. Why do they need this appendage, the State of Israel, on their backs?