By TOVAH LAZAROFF
"Anarchists like you" are a problem for law enforcement and the peace process, MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) reprimanded settler Udi Ragones as she stood Wednesday in the doorway of his small one-story home in the Nativ Ha'avot outpost in Gush Etzion.
She spoke with the slim, clean-shaven father of two in the aftermath of a visit by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to Ragones's home.
Like all the 32 homes in the unauthorized outpost, his is under threat of demolition.
By the end of October, in response to a Peace Now petition, the state has to provide the High Court of Justice with a timetable for removing the homes, located in the back end of the Elazar settlement.
But Ragones, who has spent 11 years in reserves and four years in active army duty, said he hardly saw himself as an "anarchist" or even a "law breaker."
It was upsetting, he later told The Jerusalem Post, that Tamir thought so, much less said it to him.
"It's outrageous, that after you do everything for the state, you serve in combat, you do reserves, and you come to a place for Zionist reasons, and they accuse you of being anarchists," said Ragones.
Had the parliamentarians come here during the Second Lebanon War, they would have found only women and children because most of the men were in the army, said Ragones.
Israel has long assumed that the Gush Etzion area would remain in its hands after a final status agreement is reached with the Palestinians.
But it has taken a dim view of the 105 outposts, no matter where they are located, particularly those built on private Palestinian land.
Still, the Netiv Ha'avot outpost got a nod of support from Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) who told reporters: "Gush Etzion is in the heart of the consensus. Israel is committed to reaching a deal on the outposts, and I hope this government will."
The head of the Civil Administration's Supervision Unit Marco Ben- Shabbat told the parliamentarians that "in a rough estimate, there is four times more illegal Palestinian construction [in the West Bank] than Jewish illegal construction."
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) said that the Palestinians had intended to develop the area, by way of cutting up the Gush Etzion bloc. It's the state of Israel and not the settlers who should be judged here, said Schneller. The government should have created the right conditions to allow settlement in Gush Etzion. "When there is agreement everyone needs to stand together," he said.
Tamir, who was one of the founders of Peace Now, said, "I hold that the Gush Etzion bloc is part of the consensus too, but when you help yourselves to rights no other citizens have, you are removing Gush Etzion from the consensus.
"You shouldn't have begun construction here before receiving permits, even if it is a beautiful, important and strategically important place," said Tamir.
She told Ragones that his actions had endangered the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
But Ragones said he had placed his home on this hilltop out of a Zionist desire to keep the land in Jewish hands for future generations.
Netiv Ha'avot, or as it is sometimes called Derech Ha'avot, has been the subject of a number of law suits by Peace Now which claims that the outpost was built on private Palestinian land.
The Palestinians maintain that they own the land and cultivated it until the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. They were forced to abandon it because of military curfews and closures, which forced them to remain at home.
According to the state, the actual ownership of the land was unclear.
Netiv Ha'avot resident Hananya Nachliel said that he was inspired to help create the outpost after he understood that Palestinians were trying to farm the area.
"We understood that we if we were not here, we would lose ownership of the land," said Nachliel.
"It is very important for Jews to settle here," said Ragones, who said he had wanted to live in a place where his actions had meaning.
Ragones said that he and his wife received the small home with its wooden floors as a wedding present from their parents who built it for them in 2004 while they went on a prolonged honeymoon trip to Thailand. "But we got e-mails all the time with pictures," said Ragones.
A former resident of Jerusalem, Ragones said he understood at the time that not all the permits had been acquired for the site and the home. But he thought that in time his home and all the others would be legalized, particularly given that the Ministry of Construction and Housing had spent NIS 300,000 to develop the site.
All settlements had been built this way, he said, including many within the pre-1967 boundaries.
It was only recently, as the court case has wound on, he said, that he had come to fear that in the end the state might not legalize his home.
Should that happen, he said as he sat in his cozy home, he would not resist violently.
"I will look for another place of similar [Zionist] significance," he said.
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