Last Friday, a UN committee approved a Palestinian Authority resolution that asks the United Nations to seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice in The Hague on two issues. One is Israel’s ongoing violation of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. The other is how the ongoing occupation of the West Bank should affect its legal status as occupied territory and the international community’s treatment of Israel.
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The Israeli response was a bipartisan consensus stretching from UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan to Prime Minister Yair Lapid: The Palestinians have some nerve. “This is another unilateral Palestinian move which undermines the basic principles for resolving the conflict and may harm any possibility for a future process,” Lapid said. Erdan mustered his usual holy wrath, saying, “I warned these countries that turning to the court in The Hague would be the final nail in the coffin of any chance for reconciliation.”
These responses from Lapid and Erdan are a mockery. Israel is the one that has deliberately and consistently been pounding the final nails in the coffin of “any chance for reconciliation” for many years now. Just this Wednesday, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu agreed with the chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, that the Disengagement Law would be amended to legalize the yeshiva students’ illegal return to Homesh.
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Other settlers will also be able to return to this West Bank settlement, which was ostensibly evacuated as part of the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. In reality, Homesh was never completely vacated and returned to its Palestinian owners. Soldiers guarded it, but settlers returned anyway. In 2009, they set up a yeshiva there that has been in operation ever since, and its students and teachers prevent the land’s owners, from the Palestinian villages of Burqa and Silat al-Daher, from getting anywhere near their land. Even a High Court of Justice ruling that annulled the confiscation and closure orders for the land was never implemented. This land was stolen from its owners under the protection of the state and the army.
The legalization of the return to Homesh won’t be an isolated incident. It’s a harbinger of the legalization of other illegal outposts, first and foremost Evyatar. If that happens, any evacuation laws Israel passes in the future will no longer be worth anything. One government will evacuate, and the next will bring the settlers back.
Through its shameless actions, Israel is the one that has justified referring the occupation to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.