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Gov't committed to saving illegal West Bank neighborhood

Just weeks after the Supreme Court ruling against any further delay in evacuating the outpost settlement of Migron, the government is now working industriously to legalize or otherwise legitimize the status of Givat Ha’ulpana, a neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah.

In 2008, human rights organization Yesh Din petitioned to have the neighborhood dismantled on behalf of its Palestinian owners; in September 2011, the Court found that Givat Ha’ulpana was indeed built on privately-owned Palestinian lands – in simple terms, this is property theft. The state agreed to demolish the neighborhood (Hebrew) then, and the Court ruling set a deadline of April 2012 – or up to the first of May.

Now eight ministers are seeking any possible means to reverse that ruling: they have asked the State Prosecutor’s office to find a way to delay the evacuation, and the delay will be used to explore all possible means of ensuring that the neighborhood remain in place. Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon posted his party’s explicit support for the settlement on his Facebook page, writing that “the evacuation of Ulpana crosses the line for Likud.”  The government thus hopes to openly circumvent the original Supreme Court ruling and actually wants no less than to force the legal system to become the body that justifies and regularizes settlement expansion.

The government now seems passionate and creative in its commitment to saving the 30 families of the five-building neighborhood in Beit El: Defense Minister Barak has proposed that they be moved – to other buildings inside Beit El, and only if his preferred option of legalizing it fails completely. Today, Maariv reports (Hebrew) that the government is considering two further options: To ask retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levi to lead a committee that will provide a legal arrangement for the illegal settlements (there are others awaiting permanent government approval) or else to establish a new committee to re-consider how this specific neighborhood can be legalized.

With the original ruling against Givat Ha’ulpana one year ago, the Prime Minister agreed that the neighborhood must indeed go. His current position is that “the public cannot tolerate” the evacuation of the settlers, a total reversal – apparently in light of impending danger that the policy might actually be implemented.

Each development highlights the bizarre and dangerous operating rules of this government.

Netanyahu’s statement about the public is insulting, but typical: the vast majority have never heard of Givat Ha’ulpana and has no clue where it is. The statement is quite obviously intended to make the public think that this is what it thinks. Maybe that way, herds of citizens will dutifully think of those 30 families instead of their own, forget about gasoline prices, rising electricity and water bills, low salaries, high rents, consumer abuse. Netanyahu’s statement also seems calculated to convince the world that the Israeli public is consumed with these five buildings and may dissolve into a civil war if they are moved.

Barak’s position is indefensible for someone who still maintains a lame show of support for a two-state solution. Moving the families back to “Beit El proper” is a compromise? Beit El lies north of Ramallah, well beyond the separation wall, which is fast losing relevance as a de facto border. No one even seems to remember the former-former de facto border of the Green Line.

The developments surrounding Givat Ha’ulpana showcase of the government’s prized policy: expand settlements at all costs, in all regions, in all ways; circumvent the Supreme Court; overturn the leadership’s own policies at will; push the bar of settlement acceptability in public discourse as far beyond the separation wall as possible, by making claims so wild that retreating to completely illegitimate starting points is seen as moderation and restraint. And finally, the real goal: strengthen the existing reality of one sovereign ruler over the territory from the Jordan to the sea.

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    1. Bruce

      Unbelievable what the supposed “only democracy in the middle east” has succumbed to. This is tyranny at its worst. This is the root cause of violence in Israel. The infamous land-grab, along with apartheid, that so many people deny exists. Economic sanctions, that would bring any country to its knees, has been forced down the people of Palestine’s throat. And one wonders how Hezbollah or Nasrollah get their support for the ruthless violence they perpetuate against Israelis. Easy, they just point to this type of behavior, which is psychological violence and literally the cultural rape of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government.
      Must all Jews as well as Palestinians suffer, at the hands of the Israeli government!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jack

      Nothing spectacular, after all Israel have got away with this for decades and they know they can do this since they are protected by the US.
      In fact one could just read the political program of Likud to understand that this is nothing new:

      “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

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    3. aristeides

      Last time I saw a poll, the Israeli public didn’t much like the settlers and thinks they suck up a disproportionate amount of the national budget. I suspect it’s the rightwing ministries that can’t tolerate their evacuation.

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    4. John Yorke

      The present Israeli administration now appears willing to sanction virtually any Jewish settlement located in the West Bank, defying both international opinion and its own Supreme Court. The combination of party unity, government cohesion, 2013 election prospects and right-wing agendas would seem to outweigh a more circumspect approach.

      But is a more circumspect approach possible?
      I feel sure there are those who would wish there was one. But, at the moment, it seems to be a case of playing for time and, when time runs out, taking what looks like the path of least resistance.
      This is no way to handle such matters. It’s making policy on the run and bad policy at that; no attempt is made to see past the immediate crisis, no coherent plans for the future are in evidence.

      If Israel is not to sink even further in the world’s estimation, a fundamental change in its overall strategy towards who has legitimate tile to what parcel of land must be brought about as soon as possible.

      But, on the face of it, pressures to act in a very partisan manner seem to be the order of the day and the consequences of that do not bode well for all the other days to come.

      What is needed here is pressure way beyond normal limits, counter-pressure of such consistency and force that it will carry all before it, a tsunami of intent to redirect the course of human history and permanently resolve this conflict and, in doing so, many others of a similar nature.


      Try to remember this. We are only tenants of this planet; we do not own it in perpetuity. It’s just a temporary stopover and a place we will all have to leave eventually. At some point, the landlord may be back to check up what we’ve been doing. If the mess we’ve made of it is not cleared away before then, things could go very badly for us. In such a circumstance, certain penalty clauses in the tenancy agreement could be invoked and these, as I understand it, can be quite severe.

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    5. I find it strange that a government would “agree” to a Supreme Court decision. Israel has yet to have that showdown. Note that in the US in the 60’s, some Southern States refused to carry out Supreme Court orders. In one case, the governor activated his national guard, sending these troops to a schools to prevent entry of a handful of blacks. President Kennedy nationalized that guard and ordered them to withdraw; their commander obeyed the President. Point being, the federal structure of the US isolated government rebellion; Israel does not have this advantage.
      The Court could act on its own. Simplist would be to refuse all hearings of the State on a topic once the State refuses a prior directive on that topic. Since Habeas corpus exists as a matter of common law in Israel, the State’s punishment power could thereby effectively be shut down.
      I suspect if something as drastic ever occurs it will not be out of Court moral outrage, but rather the Court declaring its true venue. I continue to think that your country is in a slow motion constitutional crisis, with the Court yet to act fully in defining itself. Strangely, coalition politics involving minority parties (your religious right, I guess) may well eventually force the matter. If that happens, the Court may gain legitimacy partly through public revulsion that coaltion politics could lead to such an event.
      Or so I imagine.

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    6. annie


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    7. Piotr Berman

      If I translate “neighborhood”, “apartment complex” and “settlement” into my mother tongue I get the same word. Perhaps it is the same in Hebrew?

      Reply to Comment