Thursday, 29 April 2010

Israel Matzav: Israel to renege on commitment to demolish 'outposts'

Israel to renege on commitment to demolish 'outposts'

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. With the Obama administration disavowing a 2004 letter from George W. Bush that promised that Israel would be able to retain 'settlement blocs,' reports the Jerusalem Post, the Netanyahu government has decided that it is not bound by one of the commitments that Ariel Sharon undertook in return for that letter: A commitment to dismantle 23-26 'illegal outposts' that were built after March 2001. Instead, each 'outpost' will be evaluated individually, and if it was built on state land (as opposed to land privately owned by 'Palestinians') it will apparently be allowed to stay.

In part, this is because the promise to dismantle the outposts was made in the framework of wider understandings with the Bush administration that provided for continued home-building at settlements Israel is likely to retain under a permanent accord with the Palestinians. Since, under the Obama administration, those wider understandings gave way to a demand, accepted by Netanyahu in November, for a moratorium on all new home-building throughout the settlements, the Post was told by one senior official, Israel no longer regards itself as having to go through with the outpost demolitions on the basis of that pledge to the US.

The official’s comments confirm a remark made to the Post during an Independence Day interview with Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon recalled that Netanyahu, soon after becoming prime minister, reiterated the promise previously made by prime ministers Sharon and Olmert to demolish the 23 hilltop communities, which are peppered all over the West Bank.

"He [Netanyahu] said we accept our commitment regarding dismantling 23 outposts that were defined by the Sharon government as illegal,” said Ya’alon.

But that changed, Ya’alon said, after a dispute broke out with the Obama administration regarding the significance and validity of Sharon’s understandings with the Bush administration about settlement growth.

“He [Netanyahu] accepted that [commitment to demolish the outposts], until it became clear that the US administration does not accept the commitments of the previous administrations.”


Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein added on Tuesday that the issue of which – if any – outposts would be razed would now be determined on the basis of the legal status of the land in each specific case, and the completion of all the necessary legal procedures, not on the basis of Israel’s pledge to the US.

Added Edelstein, the minister of information and Diaspora affairs: “There were all kinds of understandings that the other side [the US] no longer views as valuable. As a result we do not have to blindly fulfill everything. There are legal procedures in this country and we have to follow them.”

A third government official explained that Israel had three choices regarding the outposts: dismantle them right away, legalize them retroactively, or, when challenged by left-wing groups over the issue in petitions to the High Court of Justice, “buy time” by taking steps to assess their status. It is that third course that the state has been following when challenged in the courts, the official said.

The 23 outposts were all established during the Sharon prime ministership – hence his willingness, in discussions with the US, to offer the pledge to take them down. Only the status of the largest of the 23, Migron [pictured above. CiJ], home to 46 families in the Binyamin region, has been determined; because it is built on private Palestinian land, it is to be relocated to the nearby Adam settlement.

The status of some of the 80 other outposts, which were set up in the 1990s, is being challenged in the courts by left-wing groups as well.

I can't wait to hear what the State Department has to say about this. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you won't honor your commitments to us, we won't honor ours to you.

Now, if only the government takes the same tack regarding its commitments to the 'Palestinians.'

Israel Matzav: Israel to renege on commitment to demolish 'outposts'

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