Israel Legalizes 'Outpost' Settlements
Emily L. Hauser on Israel's attempt to legalize settlements considered illegal even under Israeli law.
By now the story almost writes itself: A high-ranking representative of the U.S. government—in this case, John Kerry—is slated to arrive soon in Israel, part of an effort to reinvigorate a peace process described as “moribund” since at least the early aughts. That effort is already making everyone mad, and Israel has taken the same steps it always takes to ensure that the U.S. government understands exactly where it stands: It’s expanding settlements.
The state said that it will act to legalize four West Bank outposts for which a delimitation order was issued in 2003 by the Israel Defense Forces GOC Central Command. Such an order allows the army to demolish at any time structures located within the delimited area.In 2007, attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharya petitioned the High Court on behalf of the Israeli anti-settlement organization Peace Now, to implement the order.…construction in the outposts continued despite the order. The High Court requested clarification from the state, and on Tuesday a detailed opinion concerning each one of the four outpost[s] was submitted to the court. In the document, the government said it had taken steps in recent weeks to retroactively authorize the outposts, which were built without official permission.
Built illegally, even by Israel’s standards; acknowledged as illegal, and thus ordered demolished; construction continues, despite state acknowledgement of the illegality of the outposts’ very existence—so sure, ten years later, why not rejigger your country’s laws to provide a patina of respectability? Why not give cover and support to lawbreakers in a manner that is not only insulting to all Israelis who respect the law, but which also flies in the face of the very thing to which your greatest ally has called you to commit yourself time and again?
There’s plenty that’s infuriating in this story, but there’s absolutely nothing new. If you’re a settler, you learned long ago that if you just push hard enough, you can do whatever you want. You will not be held accountable for illegal construction, any more than you might be for setting fire to Palestinian fields, or attacking Palestinian villages.
And if you’re an American diplomat, you learned nearly as long ago that pretty much no matter what you say, no matter what you do, no matter what international law or the global community might say—Israel’s going to keep building. Keep expanding its hold on the West Bank until it has a complete and final hold on all those lands it now occupies illegally, and has ground down or kicked out as many of those lands’ legal occupants as humanly possible. Keep going until a two-state piece is literally impossible, the Palestinians have given up all hope, and Israel reigns triumphant.
At least, as an American and Israeli citizen, I would hope that the Administration and State Department understand by now that that’s the plan. Because that’s the plan. I mean surely, any sentient being with two eyes in their head can see that that’s the plan? Even just one eye?
The only people who might, conceivably, change the plan’s course are all those same Americans. Only if and when it becomes diplomatically untenable for Israel to continue down this illegal and destructive course will my Israeli government even consider throwing on the brakes. Only if and when a U.S. government takes a firm stand and sticks by it will Israelis and Palestinians have so much as a chance at the peace that Kerry is working so hard to achieve.
But let me stress: The plan’s end-goal is, despite everything, unachievable. Israel will not be able to convince the Palestinians to give up all hope, and the Jewish State will ultimately be lost in the effort. At best, all Israel will be able to achieve is a single political entity in which constant, low-level ethnic violence makes any semblance of normal life a distant dream (which is to say: an even worse version of what already exists). That’s the best case scenario. I shudder to think about the other options.
It may already be too late for Kerry to do anything, frankly. Nothing and no one in the current Israeli government gives me any reason to believe that Israel has any interest in turning the country’s Titanic around. For what it’s worth, those who support the settlement project (which is virtually the entire government) appear to be genuine in their assumption that they can force their will on the world.
And why shouldn’t they?
Just like the settlers, Israel’s governments have never been held accountable for their actions. Witness Kerry’s upcoming trip.