Forgotten promises

Government's sloth regarding illegal outposts may be overlooked considering more immediate dangers.

idf dismantling outpost settlers 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 1[file])
idf dismantling outpost settlers 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 1[file])
As Talia Sasson, author of an official report on the legal morass that allowed the creation of dozens of illegal outposts, told this newspaper in an interview which appeared on Wednesday, the only obstacle to the promised removal of these outposts is a lack of political will. Why would she say that? Because, since the attorney delivered her report, which was commissioned by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the government has not removed a single illegal outpost. To be sure, the government has pledged to dismantle at least 20 of more than 100 illegal outposts. Days after Sasson delivered her report, Sharon declared before his cabinet: "Israel is obligated under the road map... to dismantle the unauthorized outposts that were established since March 2001, and Israel will live up to its commitment." And the government has, in the meantime, done something much more difficult: the unilateral dismantling of complete, long-established settlements. So why quibble about some minuscule outposts? We, indeed, do tend to bristle when friends, such as the United States, focus on such relative minutiae, as if the government has unlimited political capital to play with, and as if it should be "rewarded" for its extremely difficult steps with more pressure. But as Sharon himself has said, this is not about what other nations demand of us, but about what we should be demanding of ourselves. What Sasson documented was that these outposts were illegal because they were not created by a government decision, and some of them had confiscated private Palestinian land. She also found that, while there were many legal anomalies that should be fixed to prevent more outposts from being created, the law posed no obstacles to the removal of existing illegal outposts. "After disengagement," Sharon aide Dov Weisglass said in June, "the government will develop an orderly plan for the evacuation of the outposts." But when no move had been made by late November, three and a half months after the conclusion of the disengagement, the High Court of Justice was asked to force the government to demolish illegal outposts. And while, at some level, the reluctance to start moving people out of caravans is understandable, it is more difficult to comprehend why most of the many legal regulations recommended by Sasson - to prevent further government complicity in illegal actions - have not been promulgated. The government's sloth when it comes to the illegal outposts may be easy to overlook when we still face too many more immediate dangers. But then how does one explain another unfulfilled pledge that is literally threatening our lives? More than four years after the government decided to build the security fence, and more than two years after it vowed to finish the project by the end of this month, only some 40 percent of the life-saving structure is in place. Since the initial stage was erected, construction has crawled along at a snail's place. The problem is, suicide bombers are faster than snails. The government blames the courts for halting or slowing construction by demanding changes in the route of certain segments of the fence. But those changes have not been made swiftly. And in any case, there are several sections of the fence not affected by court cases that have not been constructed with the efficiency and urgency that the project demands. The obvious downside to the government's footdragging on the security fence is that it gives terrorists greater opportunity to strike at our cities, and places an unnecessary strain on our defense forces. Certainly, if the suicide bomber who struck in Netanya this week came through one of the crossing points in the fence, then plugging such a security flaw is another problem. But if crossings are not secure, than a complete lack of a fence is worse. The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as an inconvenient time for the government to keep its word and to strengthen the rule of law. Indeed, any delay only undermines the government's ability to function and maintain the order that preserves any society. No extraordinary measures are required, either. As Talia Sasson pointed out, all it takes is political will.