Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Ynet
Mitzpe Kramim outpost in the West Bank

Israel's settlement expansion only harms its Jewish identity

Opinion: Settlers in the West Bank celebrated the Supreme Court decision not to evacuate the Mitzpe Kramim outpost, built on private Palestinian land; they don't get, however, the ruling directly contradicts public interest

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 07.31.22, 23:44
This saga has been ongoing for decades. While Israeli officials were busy signing the Oslo Accords, determined settler groups were erecting more and more outposts in the West Bank.
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  • In 1999, following negotiations between the settlers and the government, the first outpost agreement was reached.
    The agreement dictated that 19 outposts would be frozen, 11 would be approved, 10 would be evacuated, and two would be relocated. One of those two - Mitzpe Kramim - was indeed relocated, but its new location turned out to be a piece of private Palestinian land.
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    מצפה כרמים
    מצפה כרמים
    Mitzpe Kramim outpost in the West Bank
    So what did that agreement achieve? Close to nothing. Turns out Israel is home to lobby groups that are much stronger than the government. They're determined and clever, and the government fears them.
    A majority of the public supports some sort of arrangement between us and the Palestinians. Not necessarily one that promises a Palestinian state, but one that halts the spread of settlements in the heart of Palestinian territories. Only a minority of the public is interested in establishing more outposts - legal or otherwise.
    Who will win this quarrel? We already know the answer.
    It's not like there was ever a government in Israel that tabled a sufficient settlement plan for the West Bank. Even the Trump administration's peace plan - which recognized Palestinian rights to roughly 70% of the West Bank - was structured in a way that would've allowed the outposts to remain under the Israeli sovereignty, making the proposal look ridiculous.
    4 View gallery
    מצפה כרמים התנחלות מועצה אזורית בנימין
    מצפה כרמים התנחלות מועצה אזורית בנימין
    Mitzpe Kramim outpost in the West Bank
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    Mitzpe Kramim is a parable. Its territory was allocated to settlers, not knowing that some of it belonged to the Palestinians. The lack of knowledge is what also paved the way for the Supreme Court decision on Thursday, ruling the outpost doesn't have to be evacuated at this time. A ruling validated and legitimized the outpost on the grounds of "market regulation" - according to which, if something was acquired in good faith it will remain in place, while the property owner will receive compensation.
    The problem, however, lies in the fact that the settlers build houses in the outpost, having not required permits or followed regulations.
    At the time of the outpost agreement Netanyahu was the prime minster and he was the one who signed the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron of 1997 and Wye River Memorandum in 1998, which made him the leftists of the right-wing bloc. And while all of this was done with good intentions, it was not enough in the battle against the determinate settlers, who put their foot down and continued to adjust the reality to align with their interests.
    During those days I was still on speaking terms with Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian political figure convicted and imprisoned for murder by an Israeli court. "You're fooling us," he told me, "how can we talk about peace while you're establishing more and more settlements?"
    Ehud Barak, who took over the premier chair after Netanyahu, made great efforts to reach peace. He was the first to propose a plan that included a sustainable Palestinian state. He was also the first to touch the taboo topic of splitting Jerusalem. Not even this helped.
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    אהוד ברק ויאסר ערפאת, 1999
    אהוד ברק ויאסר ערפאת, 1999
    Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, 1999
    (Photo: Eyal Fischer)
    He wasn't strong enough to overcome the settlers. They continued to build, establishing dozens of outposts. Later on, the 2003 agreement with the Americans to displace the outposts was signed, but it was never implemented, just as weren't the recommendations of the 2005 Sasson Report - that concluded that Israeli state bodies had been discreetly diverting millions to build West Bank settlements.
    Over the years, there were many petitions to evacuate Mitzpe Kramim. The Jerusalem District Court ruled in 2018 that the outpost could remain in its place due to the market regulation claim, while in 2020, the Supreme Court accepted the appeal and ruled that the settlement should be evacuated.
    But, the state appealed. Surprisingly, the appeal was accepted by the judges with a 4-3 majority. Celebrations ensued across the West Bank, because a precedent was set.
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    מצפה כרמים
    מצפה כרמים
    Mitzpe Kramim outpost in the West Bank
    (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
    God knows I like the settlers. At least most of them. But if only they were to respect the government decisions on the outposts - which only hurt our security and move us closer to a one-nation state - the state of our country would have been much healthier.
    But they have power. It's not a legal matter, but a political one.
    What is Israel's vision? The majority of the public, which includes one third of the right-wing voters, is opposed to a one-nation state. But there is no government in Israel incapable of putting together a vision that would ensure a Jewish majority in the future Jewish state, and prevent the disaster of a bi-national country.
    We don't need the Supreme Court rulings. We need a government that is determined to govern. As of now, it is not happening.
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