Editorial

Whitewashing Under a Black Flag

In expanding the size of the outpost of Adei Ad, the government thinks it can sideline the High Court’s ruling and fulfill its undertaking to the U.S. administration not to build new settlements

The Adei Ad outpost in the West Bank
Nir Kafri

The residents of the illegal West Bank outpost Adei Ad didn’t dream of such far-reaching magnanimity as that which the government is offering them now. The outpost, whose present status is being threatened by the petition that four Palestinian villages have submitted to the High Court of Justice, will become a “residential neighborhood,” part of Amichai – a settlement that was built and will be expanded for the evacuees of the illegal settlement Amona.

According to the plan to legitimize Adei Ad, the outpost will receive an area three times bigger than Amichai’s. In so doing the government thinks it can escape the High Court’s ruling and fulfill its undertaking to the U.S. administration not to build new settlements.

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Adei Ad and Amichai’s location is not accidental. They are isolated settlements, which are not included in the large settlement blocs, and are therefore expected to be evacuated in a peace arrangement. But despite this, the government is turning them into another obstacle to creating Palestinian territorial continuity, deliberately thwarting the possibility of reaching a proper border settlement with the Palestinians.

The plan to build 60 housing units in Amichai, in addition to the existing 40, and then another 300 units, makes it clear that this is not merely a local “housing arrangement” for felons, but a far-reaching policy intended to bypass even the laws enacted by Israel regarding the settlements’ status. These laws have so far distinguished between private Palestinian lands, on which settlements must not be built, and state lands, on which construction requires the Israeli government’s consent.

The Adei Ad settlement was built without a permit and without an approved master plan. As such, the government was obligated to dismantle it as soon as it was set up. But like in many other cases, the government announced its intention to legalize the outpost as part of the land confiscation law, under which Palestinians are forbidden to use land on which settlements had been built “in good faith,” or with the state’s consent. The right to use the lands will be passed to the state.

However, Adei Ad was built in 1998, many years before this disgraceful law was enacted, and the government didn’t even bother to give it legal status until now. With the outpost’s inclusion in Amichai’s jurisdiction, responsibility to enforce the law regarding illegal construction will be passed from the Civil Administration to the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council – which itself was involved in building illegal outposts.

This move is an outrageous test case, which could affect the legal status of numerous settlements and outposts, and the future of peace negotiations. The Adei Ad outpost must disappear from the map, together with the perverse legalization method.

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