+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Defense Min. admits it 'never intended to carry out' settler evacuation

The Israeli government is looking for ways to avoid evacuating a settlement built on private Palestinian land.

Ulpana Hill neighborhood in the settlement of Beit El (photo: Yaakov/wikimeida CC-3.0)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until the end of the month to try and solve the political crisis over the evacuation of Ulpana Hill, a neighborhood built on private Palestinian land in the settlement of Beit El. Netanyahu has made it clear that he will do everything in his power to keep the settlers on site (though he didn’t rule out moving them to a nearby hill, to which there is no private claim).

The Supreme Court ordered the evacuation of Ulpana Hill several months ago, after the Israeli prosecution informed the court that it had issued orders for the houses to be destroyed and the land returned to its Palestinian owners. The government, however, is reluctant to evacuate Jewish settlers regardless of the land’s legal status. Over the weekend, several ministers attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for his intention to remove the settlers from Ulpana Hill and other “illegal” outposts.

While the international community doesn’t recognize the legality of the settlement project, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in the late 70s that the defense minister can allow the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied land, as long as it is not privately owned by Palestinians. The verdict led to the construction of dozens of settlements, which are now home to more than 300,000 Israeli Jews.

In the last decade, several cases of settlements built on private Palestinian land led to Supreme Court rulings ordering the evacuation of the houses. Migron and Ulpana Hill are among the most well-known of those cases. In the case of Ulpana Hill, there wasn’t even much of a dispute, since the state itself ordered the evacuation of the houses. But as was the case with many other settlements, the state also provided the infrastructure for the construction it deemed illegal. Some settlers in Ulpana Hill even took mortgages in order to enter their homes.

Israeli governments have always treated settlements – regardless of their legal status – as though they are there to stay permanently.

In an attempt to avoid the evacuation of Ulpana Hill, Netanyahu has formed a committee led by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy to try to find “legal solutions” to the problem. Levy was the only Supreme Court justice who, in June 2005, deemed in a minority verdict that the Gaza disengagement plan was illegal because of the the removal of Jewish settlers from their homes.

Today (Sunday) the right-wing daily paper Makor Rishon reported on an interesting testimony befor Levy’s committee. The attorney for the Defense Ministry, Ahaz Ben Ari, informed Justice Levy that evacuation orders issued for Jews in the occupied West Bank were never meant to be implemented.

Justice Levy asked Ben Ari how it is possible that the government builds a road or provides services to a settlement, while at the same time declaring the construction illegal. Attorney Ben Ari answers (my translation):

Due to the apparent contradiction between the fiscal policy [of supporting the construction] and the legal policy, it was decided to issue the evacuation orders but not carry them out.

The government’s attempts to bypass the legal system and avoid evacuating even those outposts and houses that Israel itself claims to be illegal says a lot about the chances that Israel will evacuate larger, more established settlements. Still, the confrontation over Ulpana Hill should be put in its political context: Netanyahu’s coalition partners are aware of the coming elections, and they are looking to create enough public recognition for their positions. By pushing the evacuation of settlers in the name of “the rule of law,” Defense Minister Barak is aiming at the Israeli center, while ministers attacking him are trying to establish their position as leaders of the Likud’s right flank.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued a letter to Justice Levy’s committee against the flawed distinction between “authorized” and “unauthorized” settlements, claiming that both types “constitute clear and blatant violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns the protection of civilians during war.”

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. Leen

      Yes but since when did Israeli government listen to international law? No way would Likud, Netanyahu and the coalition compromise the illegal settlements, even illegal by Israeli law.

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      And fools will still keep saying, “As soon as Palestinians renounce terror, the occupation will end.”

      The occupation was never about terror, it was always about taking. And keeping. It will never end.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jack

      Its about time palestinians play with dirty tricks too, after all we see how Israel getting away everytime. First thing would be for Abbas to go the UN General assembly and get a vote for a state, he have enough votes to do this there is nothing else to wait for. There is no peace process, there is no point listening what Israel government say since they obviously cannot be trusted. Enough of this!

      Reply to Comment
    4. HIstory is replete with examples of governments taking an increasingly immoral path, and eventually arriving at their destruction. If Israeli Jews think their country is going to be the first in human history to get away with it they are fools, and will be eventually surprised with the final outcome.

      The US today is in a similar boat; having over the past decade eviscerated our Constitution, and today involved in patently immoral acts. Its day is coming soon as well.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      Yep, Israel is run by a government that doesn’t believe peace is possible. Imagine how the voters came to that conclusion when they voted for these parties…

      Reply to Comment
    6. “Netanyahu’s coalition partners are aware of the coming elections, and they are looking to create enough public recognition for their positions. By pushing the evacuation of settlers in the name of “the rule of law,” Defense Minister Barak is aiming at the Israeli center, while ministers attacking him are trying to establish their position as leaders of the Likud’s right flank.”
      The rule of law evolves. This helps me see the forces at work. Evolution happened in the US from the 1800’s to, what, the 1970’s? Israel is dealing with a political evolution that took the US well over a century. But Israel has not that time. Which is what I mean when I say Israel is a test case for law. The fight is as certainly within the Israeli polity as between the Israeli State and Palestinians. Those in the polity need reasons to decide. What, I have no idea.

      Reply to Comment
    7. VP

      “…it was decided to issue the evacuation orders but not carry them out.”

      We decided to say it, but not do it?

      So many lies…

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      Israel’s goal has always been to take over all the “Land of Israel” and expel the Palestinians. While pretending for the international community that it wants peace, which the interenational community pretends to believe.

      Reply to Comment
    9. ginger

      Why does the Israeli government feel the need to DESTROY the houses once the settlers are kicked out?

      Why not sign them over to the Palestinian owners fully intact, and let the rightful Palestinian owners have some benefit from the years the Israeli government and it’s settlers have deprived them of their lands, if not injured or killed anyone trying to resist them?

      Israel is like an immature vindictive sociopath – and it’s always a one-way street with her

      Reply to Comment
      • Jeff

        Immaturity, vindictiveness, and sociopathy are traits associated with narcissism.

        Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      Just because the settlers are kicked out, doesn’t mean the Palestinians are allowed back in. If they leave the houses standing, the settlers will be back in them the next day.

      It’s political theater. The IDF pretends to evict the settlers and tear down the houses, knowing perfectly well they’ll just be back to rebuild. Nothing is ever done to keep them out or return the land to the owners.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Tim

      Why don’t they just bulldoze down the houses in the middle of the night just like they do to evict the Palestinians?

      Reply to Comment