The Rule of Law, Lieberman-style

MK Avigdor Lieberman promises that when he accedes to power, or at least the Ministry of Public Security, he will impose law and order on the country and take appropriate action against criminals.

MK Avigdor Lieberman promises that when he accedes to power, or at least the Ministry of Public Security, he will impose law and order on the country and take appropriate action against criminals. Just imagine the head of Yisrael Beiteinu adding the disclaimer, "with the exception of the laws and orders that hinder the theft of Jewish-owned land with state assistance," or "with the exception of criminals from the former Soviet Union." That makes it easier to understand the real significance of Lieberman's opposition to the evacuation of illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank. The issue at hand is not ideology, yet another political disagreement or a violation of zoning laws, which are plentiful throughout the country. The vast majority of the outposts are nothing but the robbery in broad daylight of property belonging to private citizens.

In legal terms, the hundreds of settlers living in over 100 outposts scattered throughout the West Bank are nothing but criminals. Cabinet ministers, Israel Defense Forces officers, government clerks and officials from the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division, all of whom aid these criminals by commission or omission, should be prosecuted as accessories to serious crimes. An appendix to a report on the outposts prepared by attorney Talia Sasson, which was published in Haaretz 18 months ago, revealed that 54 of the 87 outposts that she examined (out of a total of 105 outposts) are located at least partly on private land and partly on state-owned land, or on land whose ownership rights are disputed. Sasson concluded that these communities are "irreparable, even if there was a way to make them legal."

According to the appendix, which is based on data obtained (via heavy pressure) from government ministries as well as on official maps of the Civil Administration, the Housing and Construction Ministry disbursed at least NIS 70 million in 1996-2004 for infrastructure and public buildings in 82 illegal outposts in the territories. Of these, 61 were established when Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister. Remember, Lieberman began his political career as director general of the Prime Minister's Office under Netanyahu. What would Lieberman say about a state that encouraged its citizens to methodically trespass on the private property of Jews and uproot their orchards, and even sent its soldiers to ensure the trespassers' safety?

Lieberman and his colleagues on the right justify the impotence - or, more accurately, the lack of will - that is evident when it comes to evacuating settlements with claims about the tolerance shown for illegal construction in Arab communities within the Green Line. One might wonder what the judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague would say about drawing a comparison between a failure to enforce zoning laws within Israel's sovereign borders and an unauthorized incursion into land that is at the heart of an international dispute. Israel itself has not imposed its sovereignty on these lands and has agreed to negotiate over their future. Not only that, but in recent years Israel's High Court of Justice has rejected petitions filed by settlers against the evacuation of six outposts, after accepting the state's argument that they were established, in violation of the law, on private land.

It has been almost three and a half years since the cabinet adopted the road map, which, inter alia, includes a commitment to "immediately" dismantle outposts established after March 2001. Every day, Israel violates anew its commitment to the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN. And every day, the government also violates a resolution approved by the previous government over 18 months ago: to adopt the Sasson Report, which received the attorney general's blessing, and to take action within 90 days to correct the situation.

If Lieberman asks us to take his law and order talk seriously, he must condition his joining the government on an accelerated timetable for evacuating all the outposts, improving law enforcement in the West Bank and returning the land to its owners - regardless of nationality, race or religion.