The Jerusalem District Court ruled this week that the Mitzpeh Kramim settlement outpost can be legalized, even though it was built illegally on land that doesn’t belong to the state and some of the land allegedly belongs to private Palestinian owners. This is another step – on top of the theft law known as the “Regularization Law,” which allows settlements and outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land to be legalized in certain circumstances – in the process of trampling on Palestinians’ rights to the land. The spirit of the rulings expected to emanate from the district courts henceforth is that the legal Palestinian owners are trespassers on sacred Jewish lands.
Judge Arnon Darel ruled that the illegal outpost could be legalized if it was proven that the land was seized bona fide. But it requires a great deal of cynicism to find good faith in conduct that consisted entirely of deceiving the Palestinians and pulling the wool over their eyes. The court effectively smashed the principle that the state itself had laid down: We don’t build on privately owned Palestinian land.
In the view of our right-wing government, Israel’s takeover of West Bank lands is an end that sanctifies the means. If necessary, the attorney general’s independence will be crushed, and he will become the justice minister’s rubber stamp. If necessary, the legal system will be corrupted, henceforth only judges who are loyal to the settlement enterprise will be appointed and promoted. If it’s necessary to set up a legal system in the territories based on discrimination between Jews and Palestinians, that will be done. If it’s necessary to wipe out liberal, humanist education for this purpose, that too will be done.
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And above all, if continuing the takeover of the occupied territories requires destroying any chance of an agreement with the Palestinians and painting them as an essential enemy, that will be done as well. If it’s necessary to sacrifice our relations with the liberal democracies, we’ll replace them with anti-liberal countries. If we need to disregard the Declaration of Independence’s credo about a Jewish and egalitarian state, we’ll disregard it. If it’s necessary to abandon both the Zionist dream and the democratic one, they, too, will be sacrificed on the altar of the Moloch of the settlements.
This unprecedented ruling is just one element in Israel’s handling of the settlement issue. The High Court of Justice is now supposed to hear the Palestinians’ original petition against the outpost. We can only hope it will reject the district court’s ruling.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.