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Proto-Settlement Legalities

09 October 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Many Israelis living over the 1967 armistice lines in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) are quite idealistic.  Over the past few years proto-settlements have been established, meaning a few caravans and water tower erected on a hilltop as a public show of Jewish ownership in the Land of Israel.  Ideologically the Left is opposed to new Jewish development in these areas citing the need for peace and eventual withdrawal from many areas where a Palestinian state is to arise in the future.  The religious right believes the entire Land of Israel must be settled and no Palestinian state allowed.

The caravans are the first step in building a permanent town and it is known ‘settlements’ are seen by some as ‘obstacles to peace.’  But this is a political – diplomatic argument and will only be resolved in a permanent status agreement with the Palestinian Authority sometime in the future.

Without going into the ideological arguments (they have been referred to in this column in the past and will dealt with more so in the future) one must confront the ‘legality’ of the proto-settlements within the framework of Israeli law and government decision making.  Defense Minister Benyamin Ben Eliezer has begun dismantling ‘illegal’ proto-settlements with the backing Prime Minister Sharon.  And correctly so.

No one has the right to build developments wherever they want whether east or west of the 1967 lines.  Such behavior only leads to anarchy, which Israel can ill afford.  With all due respect to ideology, democracy, law and order must prevail.  If the government has decided to establish a proto-settlement, so be it and if not, it should not be.

The first issue of the proto (caravan) settlements should not be the ideological imperatives involved but rather the legal ramifications of riding rough shot over the law.