Editorial |

Israel Must End Its Theatrics in the West Bank

Haaretz Editorial
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The Maoz Esther outpost after it was evacuated, in the West Bank, this week.
The Maoz Esther outpost after it was evacuated, in the West Bank, this week.Credit: Moti Milrod
Haaretz Editorial

Roughly 400 security personnel, including police, soldiers and officials from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, took part in demolishing buildings in two settlement outposts last week. Altogether, 20 buildings were razed, after roughly two years in which the outposts had been left alone. One can only imagine how much money this operation cost, given the large number of people involved and the heavy machinery mobilized for the task.

Nevertheless, the very next day, the so-called hilltop youth began rebuilding the outposts with no interference. By the end of last week, there were already three new buildings on the site. The settlers are financing the new construction through online crowdfunding. By Sunday, more than 300,000 shekels ($93,000) had been raised. One of the fundraisers is MK Bezalel Smotrich (Hagar Shezaf, Sunday’s Haaretz).

For whom was this grandiose, expensive eviction staged? It’s a rerun of a well-known show. Every few months, the security services raid one of the hilltop youth’s outposts and demolish a few buildings. Knesset members from the radical right raise an outcry.

People throw stones at the security forces and a few teenagers are arrested but released the same day. And within hours, the fundraising begins, and the buildings are rebuilt.

In practice, these outposts exist for years on end. The right preaches about governability, but falls silent with regard to the clearest example of the lack of governability. The Palestinians, as usual, pay the price, as they are pushed off their land.

Why even bother spending taxpayer money on these demolitions, which are strictly for appearance’s sake? After all, even in the one case where the defense establishment decided to station a permanent force of Border Police around an outpost, near Yitzhar, it proved to be theater of the absurd. Some of the buildings at the site were never demolished, and a few families were permitted to stay there the entire time. After two years, following a lengthy campaign that termed the situation a “siege,” the Border Police left. Nothing stands in the settlers’ way.

When the defense establishment needs to erect a façade of the rule of law in the West Bank, it evacuates outposts, with a wink. It’s clear to everyone concerned that they will soon be rebuilt. And when the outposts have some connection to or backing from the political establishment, the defense establishment doesn’t raze them at all. After all, Interior Ministry director-general Yair Hirsh himself lives in an illegal outpost named Keidar – an outpost that has been served with eviction orders.

The defense establishment and its bosses in the government don’t lack the means to take action against illegal outposts, they simply lack the will. It’s high time for Defense Minister Benny Gantz to put an end to this ridiculous Israeli ritual.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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