Making a Mockery of the Law

Even if the government has the authority to sanction the outpost from a legal point of view, is it possible from a diplomatic point of view?

For many years, the state claimed before the High Court of Justice that the Netiv Ha’avot outpost in Gush Etzion was not legal and must be evacuated. And then suddenly, a day before the hearings on evacuating it, two weeks ago, it stated that it was planning to ascertain the land’s ownership and would accordingly “examine the possibility of regularizing the construction at the site.”

This must be known: Netiv Ha’avot was established without a government decision, without a permit for the land allocation, without being in any settlement’s area of jurisdiction, without planning status, partly on private land belonging to Palestinians and partly on unzoned land whose owners are not known, but despite this, with Housing Ministry funding to the tune of NIS 300,000 in 2001.

Is the state genuinely planning to legalize this outpost? For that purpose, the state’s rights to the land must be checked. That right is most dubious when talking about the part of the land that belongs to Palestinians. As for the remaining part, no one can know the outcome when the ownership issue is cleared up.

According to a government decision from 1979, a settlement can be established in the West Bank only on “state lands.” Therefore, only if the state has rights to the land can it “authorize” the outpost from the legal point of view.

If by some miracle it transpires that this is indeed state land, a government decision will be required to establish the outpost, and it will be necessary to plan the settlement, allocate the land and issue an order setting the area of jurisdiction.

But even if we assume that the government has the authority to sanction the outpost from the legal point of view, is that possible from the diplomatic point of view? What about Israel’s commitments to the United States under the road map? And Ariel Sharon’s commitment to George W. Bush in 2003 and 2004, and later at Taba, to evacuate all the illegal outposts? And the government decision from March 2005 about adopting the principles of the report on the outposts, and applying them − a decision that was supported by the incumbent prime minister?

And Benjamin Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution? And his decision to freeze construction in the West Bank? It should also be remembered that since the beginning of the 1990s no government has decided on establishing new settlements, so as not to draw fire from the international arena.

That is why the “Jewish head” invented the outposts − establishing settlements behind the government’s back without a permit and against the law, but with the support of some of the ministries, public bodies, local authorities and active settlers.
In view of all this, the question is: Was the government’s statement to the High Court regarding the possible validation of the outpost’s construction serious?

From the way things were phrased, it transpires that the state committed itself merely to consider, and not necessarily to decide, about sanctioning the construction. And the consideration will take place only after it becomes clear who the owners are, a process that is not defined in time.

And then, a slight suspicion creeps into our heart whether perhaps, only perhaps, there is no genuine intention to create a new crisis with President Barack Obama, but that instead, what we have here is merely an old trick in a new wrapping − how to win time at the high court by flying a trial balloon of some mysterious future possibility of validating the construction so the court will postpone the petition indefinitely and will not, heaven forbid, decide that it is sick and tired of these hollow explanations and will order the eviction. For after all − what a terrible disaster! − the country cannot bear the eviction of a handful of settlers from the stolen lands of Palestinians.

This is not the story of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost. It is the story of the State of Israel, which has turned government decisions on their heads and emptied them of all content. A state which has contempt for its own rule of law, its judges and the policies that it itself declares are its own. A state which confuses those who support it, and sows despair in the hearts of its citizens. A state that undermines the public’s faith in it and in the regime’s institutions.