Who Will Stop the Israeli Settlers?

Herzog and Livni also bear responsibility for the growth of the settler population in the past decade.

Olivier Fitoussi

Friday will mark the 10th anniversary of a historic decision by an Israeli government. For some reason, this important decision has not received due attention in this election season. On March 13, 2005, the second Ariel Sharon government decided to dismantle all the illegal outposts that had been erected since the government came into office in March 2001, and were listed in the report prepared by attorney Talia Sasson.

The government averred that it would thus fulfill the first stage of the Road Map set down by the Quartet, in keeping with an Israeli commitment made in May 2003. This clause, which included a total freeze on settlement construction, was not included among the 14 reservations Israel presented to the Quartet.

The signature of then-Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this decision is just as worthless as the paper upon which the Wye River Memorandum, the Bar-Ilan speech and all the “two-state” speeches made before the United States Congress and the United Nations General Assembly are written.

But it’s time to remind those with short memories that Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni were also part of that government. The latter was appointed head of a special ministerial committee whose job was to convert the outpost report into action – primarily by ensuring the dismantling of outposts built after the formation of the previous government (in which Livni also served). A significant portion of those outposts were built on private Palestinian land.

Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics show that over the past decade, the settler population in the West Bank has grown by 112,000 (from 244,000 to 356,000).

Figures from Peace Now show that in the same period, the illegal outposts gained 9,000 more residents – about three times their population 10 years ago. More than half of the growth occurred during the time when Livni and Herzog bore ministerial responsibility for this gross violation of Israeli and international law.

The Kadima/Hatnuah leader and the Labor Party and Zionist Union chairman were also both partly responsible for allowing hundreds of millions of shekels to flow to the settlements via the leaky pipe known as the “settlement division,” which suddenly became the national punching bag.

According to the outpost report (presented a decade ago), the division “mainly erected many unauthorized outposts, without approval from the authorized political officials.”

The report also said that this systematic illegal activity, including the theft of private lands, began in the mid-1990s, apparently inspired “by various housing ministers, whether they turned a blind eye or offered support and encouragement.”

Every Israeli government since 2005 has ignored the report’s unequivocal recommendation to clip the wings of the division, especially its budget, which continues to fund the effort to wreck peace.

The last finance minister, Yair Lapid, was also quite generous to the constituents of his “brother” Naftali Bennett. Yesh Atid’s proposal to close down the division only hit the headlines after an investigation was launched and (alleged) corruption was revealed in Yisrael Beiteinu, ostensibly leading to officials in this organization.

Regretfully, Meretz – the only Zionist party whose leaders dare to consistently say loud and clear that the plans to expand the settlements are no less, or even more, a threat to the Zionist enterprise as the Iranian nuclear program – is now fighting for its life.

It’s no wonder that Herzog and Livni are trying to keep the settlements issue out of the spotlight in this election campaign. When it comes to the failures to treat this terminal illness, which is attacking the bleeding peace process and gobbling up public funds, they bear their share of the blame.

Can Herzog and Livni be trusted not to sit once again in a government that will nurture the criminals of the outposts and subsidize the enemies of peace?