Why Does the IDF Allow Officers to Live in Illegal Outposts?

How can an officer who breaks the law and ignores court orders serve as a model for his soldiers?

The death of Maj. Eliraz Peretz, who was killed in an action in an operation in the Gaza Strip, brought the Givat Hayovel saga back into the spotlight.

As in the story of the heroism of his neighbor in the illegal outpost in the settlement of Eli, Roi Klein, who was killed in the Second Lebanon War while saving his troops, his settler friends and his patrons on the right have enlisted the Peretz family's tragedy in the fight to save his widow's home from demolition.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak was required to inform the High Court of Justice by May 1 of last year about when he intends to demolish the houses in the outpost (which Palestinians claim is built on private land). He has now announced he will ask the court to postpone the execution of the order.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the officers' supreme commander, has also promised to lend a hand. Even the left-wing Peace Now movement has evinced the appropriate sensitivity and has agreed to cooperate.

Strangely, in all this no one has wondered how it is possible that the IDF, the body charged with imposing the law on the West Bank, never lifted a finger against its officers who settled in an illegal outpost in the first place.

Moreover, how can an officer in the career army who breaks the law and ignores a court order serve as a model for his soldiers? How should a private deal with an order to evacuate an illegal outpost from a colonel who has made his home in a similar community? And what can anyone expect of an officer who is squatting on property when his commander, who is himself a squatter, orders him to evacuate his own home?

After it emerged that dozens of career army officers are living in outposts, I sent these questions to the military spokesman. I wanted to know what the army's policy is with regard to officers who are living in outposts.

After a thorough clarification, according to the spokesman, with the Military Advocate General's Office, he sent the following response:

"In the unapproved outposts, for many years now thousands of citizens have been living, among them state employees including army people. As of today, to the best of our knowledge, there exists no general policy concerning state employees, including military people, living in the outposts."

Obviously the absence of a policy means a policy of tacit agreement. When they are in uniform, the officers are charged with enforcing the law. When they take off their uniforms, they are breaking the law.

The military prosecutor's acceptance of this phenomenon shows something about the special relations that have developed in recent years between the cat and the cream.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, a specialist on military and constitutional law, was also surprised to hear the IDF's response. The absence of a policy with respect to officers living in illegal outposts, he said, is blatantly unreasonable and also encourages the phenomenon.

"The IDF is the sovereign and charged with enforcing the law in the territories," explained Kremnitzer, who in the past was a military judge. "Therefore, the army must have an unambiguous policy against breaking the law in those territories."

According to him, it is impossible to be a member of an organization responsible for the rule of law and to break the law without that having a negative effect on the organization's status. Kremnitzer says the IDF has a clear policy concerning members' conduct even when they are not in uniform.

The Civil Administration has responded that none of their people live in an outpost and they do not accept lawbreakers into their ranks.

Four years ago the police investigations department summoned a police officer who had built a house in the Mitzpeh Yair outpost in the southern Hebron Hills. After it was made clear to him that he had to decide on which side of the law he chose to stand, the officer called a moving company.

A police spokesman said that in the wake of this, a policy was established to the effect that a lawman cannot live in an illegal outpost.

The Shin Bet, which is also charged with enforcing the law and security in the territories, told Haaretz that it is not their intention to answer the question of their policy with regard to their people settling in outposts.

How much do they really love Zion?

Before Independence Day, the Emek Yezreel College commissioned a survey of the attitude of young Jewish Israelis (Hebrew-speakers aged 20 to 30) toward the national anthem, "Hatikvah."

A large majority (82 percent) reported they know how to recite the anthem in full. Another 17 percent said they know just part of it and about only 1 percent admitted they don't know the words to the national anthem at all.

A larger majority (85 percent) said the anthem represents them to large or very large extent.

Prominent among those who said the anthem does not represent them were people with low incomes (8 percent) and religious respondents (11 percent), as compared to 2 to 3 percent among people with average and high incomes and 1 percent among people who define themselves as traditional.

The vast majority of the respondents are interested in keeping the national anthem as it is; only 14 percent would prefer to replace it or modify it.

The initiator of the survey, Dr. Ruth Amir, head of the interdisciplinary studies department at the college, asked the Teleseker company to examine the percentage of Israelis who would be prepared to leave the country and move to the United States to live if they were able to obtain a residence visa quickly and easily.

The finding revealed a considerable gap between the "yearning Jewish soul" in the anthem and the desire for a green card. No less than 60 percent at all income levels responded in that they would take off if given the chance.

The title Amir chose for her study: "I love you, homeland, but I want to leave."