(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
For decades, the High Court of Justice has provided essential legal legitimacy for Israeli actions in Judea and Samaria. Court rulings on issues such as the route of the security barrier, land ownership and the powers of the IDF as the governing body in the West Bank have prevented the international community from taking more far reaching steps against Israel and Israeli officials. Israel’s highest court provides Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria with their sole chance for judicial recourse against Israelis, thus providing them with an essential human right.
Apparently, advocates for the Jewish settlement of Amona don’t appreciate the High Court’s help in legitimizing Israel’s presence on the West Bank. In their zealous fight to prevent the evacuation of 40 families, they risk endangering the entire settlement project.
In the Knesset, right-wing legislators are insisting on moving forward with legislation that seeks to retroactively legalize Amona and other outposts that were knowingly built on privately owned Palestinian land.
But they seem to be oblivious to the fact that the legislation is a radical deviation from an Israeli policy in place for nearly 50 years.
The so-called “Regulation Bill” undermines the authority of the High Court and in so doing upsets the balance of powers between the judicial and legislative arms that is the basis of every democracy. The court has already ruled that because Amona was built on private land, and because the West Bank is not a part of the State of Israel in the same way as Tel Aviv and Haifa are, Amona must be evacuated by December 25. Now lawmakers who are more concerned with garnering favor from their right-wing constituency than protecting the settlement project are attempting to undermine the High Court.
The “Regulation Bill” if passed would be the first time the Knesset explicitly impacts land rights of Palestinians living in the West Bank, but does this without giving them representation in the Knesset. It would also be de facto annexation of Judea and Samaria.
Not everyone on the Right has been overcome with a collective bout of blind zealotry. Veteran settlement leader Pinchas Wallerstein has come out against the extremists fighting for Amona, claiming that their “all or nothing” approach is threatening to undermine the entire settlement project.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned cabinet ministers on Sunday that passing the “Regulation Bill” could have serious ramifications, including Israeli officials being taken to the International Criminal Court.
“If this bill passes, we might be taken to The Hague,” Netanyahu warned according to Ynet during a sixhour cabinet meeting on the impending evacuation of Amona.
The prime minister also said the legislation could prompt outgoing US President Barack Obama to act against Israel at the UN Security Council in the time he has left before he leaves office in January.
But large swathes of the Right seems not to be getting the message. On Monday, over a hundred religious Zionist rabbis making up a broad spectrum of opinions signed a petition calling for resistance to the evacuation of Amona. The rabbis told the faithful to come to Amona ahead of the planned evacuation, hoping apparently that the show of force would prevent the evacuation. They advocated only non-violent means of resistance and called on the government to prevent the destruction.
For nearly five decades the High Court through the rulings of its highly respected justices has succeeded in providing the settlement project with a modicum of legitimacy, as long as the land rights of Palestinians were respected and the State of Israel did not taken steps to annex the West Bank.
But right-wing political activism to save Amona is a deviation from the more pragmatic approach that characterized settlement advocacy and threatens to hurt the entire project. We hope the Right regains its senses and agrees to one of the compromises suggested by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.