Things are heating up here. But don’t expect wisdom from the ruling party — many of its lawmakers are too busy in fantasyland.
Terror attacks are spiking again. A 38-year-old Israeli woman is in a serious to critical condition in a Jerusalem hospital, after a terrorist stabbed her in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday. As of Tuesday evening there have been nine attacks in the last week — seemingly an attempt by terrorists to escalate things as the current Palestinian violence — sometimes referred to as the “stabbing intifada” — is about to pass its one-year mark.
The big talking point in the Likud party is the need to “save” Amona, a West Bank outpost which Israel’s High Court has earmarked for demolition. The court made its decision in 2014, allowing two years for the demolition to be arranged, and the late-December deadline is now nearing, prompting the inevitable last-ditch attempts to avert
The evacuation of the 50 Amona families and demolition of the 19-year-old village wasn’t ordered due to any ideological objection to settlement, but for the simple fact that it is built on privately owned Palestinian land. This isn’t a debate for or against settlements, but rather an instance of the Israeli High Court — which unlike the international community accepts settlement — saying that the village was built on the land of private individuals where Amona residents had no right to construct.
But instead of accepting the decision with dignity, the majority of Likud’s lawmakers have petitioned for legislation that would undermine the court’s ruling. Some 25 of the party’s representatives in the Knesset want to pass a law that will say that what’s done is done, and if Amona and some other outposts have been built on privately owned
Palestinian land, they should be retroactively declared legitimate.
It’s an attractive proposition. Why uproot people, why make them leave their homes, when the Palestinian landowners could be generously compensated and the village given the state’s seal of approval? But this logic does not stand up to scrutiny.
This would not be the case of a government using a compulsory purchase order for a planned project for the public good. Outposts are villages or hamlets that were created without the required permissions of the Israeli government; they are wildcat communities. The legislation that is being advocated could become a carte blanche for hardline settlers to quietly establish communities on whichever privately owned land they chose, once the facts on the ground are created using tested methods to delay legal proceedings. Then, once the day of judgement finally arrives and the community is longstanding and thriving, they could claim retroactive legitimation.
Both because of the situation which it would force on Palestinian landowners whose land is currently covered with outpost homes, and because of the precedent it would set, this legislation is not a solution for Israel. It is not a path for a state of law which, regardless of decades of conflict with Palestinians, respects their private land-owning rights, as it should.
The legislation will have slim chances of passing into law, and if it did it could well be deemed unconstitutional. One the one hand, this is a relief; on the other, it raises disbelief. The majority of the most powerful party in Knesset is championing a path to rubber stamp what cannot reasonably be rubber stamped, as part of the political game — essentially in order to save face with the settler right. The legislators want to be able to say: “At least we tried.”
But for the sake of short-term popularity, they risk long-term damage to the discourse in the State of Israel. They encourage the public, which looks up to them, to consider every means to an ideological end to be legitimate, even if it is crooked. By creating false expectations for Amona and other instances of building on privately owned Palestinian land to be legitimized, they suggest that where there is a political will, there is always a way. Instead, they should be sending out the message that Israel’s commitment to law sometimes gets in the way of even their political desires — and that this is a healthy cornerstone of their state. n
Nathan Jeffay’s column appears twice a month.