Friday, October 1, 2010

Let Jews build homes


by Moshe Dann


Razing of ‘unauthorized outposts’ unjust, raises questions about rule of law


Conventional wisdom says that “Israel promised (the US) to destroy all ‘unauthorized outposts,’ and, therefore, must fulfill its obligations.” If the government is looking for an excuse, this is a poor one.

The "promise" made in a letter in April, 2004 from Dov Weissglass, then chief of the Prime Minister's Bureau to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, was submitted "on behalf of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon;" the letter was not signed by Sharon, nor was it affirmed by the cabinet. It was, simply, "diplomatic correspondence."

Moreover, the letter contains conditions. "The Israeli government believes that further steps by it, even if consistent with the Roadmap, cannot be taken absent the emergence of a Palestinian partner committed to peace, democratic reform, and the fight against terror."

Using this letter to justify destruction of Jewish "unauthorized outposts" raises serious questions:

Does Weissglass' letter obligate Israel to carry out its provisions while ignoring its conditions? Does this letter obligate future Israeli governments? Was the letter approved by the cabinet (since it mentions only the PM)? Why didn't Prime Minister Sharon sign it? Other than Weissglass' letter, there is no binding agreement to destroy Jewish "unauthorized outposts," destroy settlements, or prevent Jews from building anywhere in the Land of Israel.

Asked to respond, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office avoided direct specific answers. "This government is committed to the rule of law, and abiding by the law is paramount to maintaining a civil society." They refused to elaborate.

This begs the questions and shifts the argument to Israeli law and, vaguely, "rule of law."

What, in fact, is Israeli law regarding settlement building, and how is it determined? If Arabs are entitled to acquire property rights by settlement, why can't Jews? Why do Israeli authorities refuse to give permission to develop new neighborhoods, hilltops and outposts? If the application of law discriminates against Jews, what's the meaning of "rule of law"?

What about impartiality?

And why does Defense Minister Ehud Barak unilaterally and arbitrarily refuse to authorize Jewish-owned buildings? Is that democracy?

The Supreme Court has demanded that "unauthorized outposts" built by Jews be destroyed immediately, but has given over 100,000 illegal Arab homes a pass. And what about the vast "unrecognized" illegal Bedouin villages throughout the Galilee and Negev that are still growing?

"Rule of law" means impartiality above all; it also must make reasonable common sense. Jewish homes in "unauthorized outposts" built on unoccupied, unclaimed land are examples of Zionist enterprise and idealism.

They offer inexpensive places to live. Most received tacit approval from government ministries, including the prime and defense ministers, which provided infrastructure and utilities. They tried to fulfill the necessary requirements. They are citizens and members of Israeli society. How does destroying them demonstrate justice and the "rule of law" when they are discriminated against? Why can't they be offered legal recognition?

If providing legal status to Jewish homes in "unauthorized outposts" provides more taxes and fees and serves the interests of the State, why not allow it? How is denying only Jews the right to build assert the "rule of law?"

If the Israeli government is afraid of American opposition, then what does that say about "rule of law?" And, if the "rule of law" is important, why should it be sacrificed on the altar of American opposition?

Focusing on outposts and Jewish building in new neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria diverts attention from the real issues: the threat of a nuclear Iran, Pakistan/Afghanistan's disintegration, the danger from Hamas and Hezbollah, and ongoing terrorism from PA-controlled areas – to name only a few.

Where Jews can or can't live in the national homeland of the Jewish people hardly seems to be of such importance, unless, of course, the question is if they should have [n]one at all.

But then, there are other, more ancient and sacred promises to keep.

Moshe Dann, a former assistant professor of History, is a journalist living in Jerusalem


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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