A PALESTINIAN VIEW
Logic would dictate
by Ghassan Khatib
From a Palestinian perspective, as well as from the perspective of international law, to distinguish between settlements and the settlements known as outposts is neither here nor there. All of them--whether the large and long-established Ma'ale Adumim settlement bloc that tries to encircle Jerusalem and reaches down into the Jordan Valley almost splitting the West Bank in two, to any small caravan moved onto a hilltop overnight and to which the Israeli army winds up providing protection--are illegal, an obstruction to a peace based on two states, and a crime of the military occupation.
International law as embodied by the Fourth Geneva Convention states quite clearly that it is forbidden for an occupying power to move, in whole or in part, its civilian population into occupied territory. That law could have been written with Israel and its settlement policy in the West Bank and Gaza in mind. It was of course written as a logical consequence of the most important axiom of international law: that it is forbidden for any state to acquire territory through military conquest.
Nevertheless, on both a practical level and a political level, the outposts have become an issue separate from the overall settlement issue. The Palestinian position on all settlements is constant. On the Israeli side, however, the law that "allows" Israel to build settlements in the occupied territories in the face of international law does not apply to settlement outposts. In other words, even by Israeli law they are illegal.
The outposts are also a direct transgression of the Sharon government's obligations to the US government. Both domestically and diplomatically there would seem to be enough incentive as well as a legal framework to make the Israeli government force these outposts out.
On a practical level, too, the issue would appear to be one that can be addressed immediately. Outposts consist of mobile trailers. They can be placed quickly. They can be removed quickly. Furthermore, the Israeli army prides itself on preventing Palestinians from crossing the green line. Logic would dictate that the army should be equally good at preventing Israelis from doing so too, thus re-establishing outposts as they have done the few times an Israeli government has made a half-hearted attempt at removing them. Logic would dictate.
But then logic would dictate that we ought to be talking about when settlements, all settlements, are removed, rather then if. Logic would dictate that an Israeli government that professes itself in favor of a two-state solution would be acting swiftly and decisively against further settlement activities to prevent a situation in which a two-state solution is unfeasible, as is currently the case due to the existence of settlements and outposts.
Logic would dictate that at a time when there is a ceasefire, when we are supposed to be moving in the direction of peaceful negotiations to end the conflict, to create two states, the Israeli government would do all in its power to ensure that confidence is built between the two sides. Logic would dictate that one of the most obvious confidence-building measures would be the removal of these settlement outposts as a first step to prove that, indeed, the Israeli government is interested in a viable agreement.
But that logic is a logic that aims at a peaceful end to the conflict. The logic that wants to maintain and consolidate the occupation, the logic of war, says otherwise. Settlement outposts and the settlers in them not only receive the protection of the Israeli army, they are afforded paved roads, electricity and water. Few attempts have been made to remove them, and those few attempts have been thwarted by the immediate re-establishment of such outposts.
The Israeli government may be in a tight political spot when it comes to acting against a vocal and extreme settler minority in Israel. But it is the role of third countries to ease that pressure by applying stronger pressure the other way. That way an Israeli government would be left with no choice. The Quartet's roadmap, international law, understandings between Washington and Tel Aviv all point in one direction: settlement outposts must be removed. To do so sooner rather than later is an important first step in establishing trust between the two parties that ultimately must negotiate an end to this conflict.- Published 21/2/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and bitterlemons-international.org. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of labor, acting minister of planning and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
For now, don't dismantle
by Yossi Alpher
All the angry criticism directed at the outposts and the successive Israeli governments that allowed them to come into existence is true and justified.
The outposts are illegal even by the questionable Israeli standards that permitted construction of the settlements. Their ongoing presence in the West Bank flies in the face of the Sharon government's solemn commitments to the United States. Some outposts are blatantly situated on private Palestinian land, the rest (like the settlements) on public land that by any reasonable standard should be used for the benefit of the Palestinian population, not Israeli settlers. They were constructed with the underhanded support of a long line of government ministers, whose abuse of funds for this purpose was conveniently ignored by a series of attorneys general and state controllers.
At the strategic level, the outposts' geographic "deployment" is designed to make it impossible to divide the land between the two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians; hence their existence is antithetical to the Zionist goal of a Jewish and democratic state.
Worst of all, the very existence of the outposts--and particularly their success in defying removal by the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli government--tells us who really controls the West Bank lands outside the Palestinian cities and villages. And that is a scandal by any measure of sovereignty and good government.
Yet for now no more attempts should be made to remove the outposts. They should be isolated, cut off from electricity and water and "starved" in every possible way, but no more attempts should be made to remove them by force. The reasons are both operational and political.
At the operational level, the IDF has simply proven unable to remove the outposts with anything approaching permanency. At most, a container or two are removed by 1,000 soldiers in the face of curses, spitting and even violence on the part of a few hundred fanatical settlers--who then proceed to bring more containers to the same deserted hilltop and reestablish their outpost. This performance brings neither honor nor dignity to the IDF, to say the least, and neutralizes whatever deterrent value the operation was supposed to exercise vis-a-vis the extremist settlers.
The problem is that, once the outpost is removed, the territory on which it was established remains in Israeli hands, i.e., in the hands of the extremists who live nearby, and who have greater familiarity with the terrain and more control over it than the soldiers. This drawback can only be negated by turning the territory over to the Palestinian Authority and its security forces and/or by physically fencing off the territory and separating it from Israel.
This is precisely what the Gaza and northern West Bank disengagements are designed to do. Once they are implemented, any settler who tries to go back and rebuild, say, Netzarim, will encounter both a fence patrolled by the IDF (proving that from the Palestinian standpoint the fence can be useful) and the presence of Palestinians at the Netzarim site. Hopefully, after Gaza will come the turn of West Bank lands in which there are outposts. Then their removal will be final.
Turning to the political arena, Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan is moving ahead with great difficulty on account of settler and settler-inspired opposition, both violent and parliamentary. Whatever we may think or make of Sharon's motives, and even assuming that the failure to remove outposts in the West Bank also reflects a certain lack of determination on his part, he is clearly intent on implementing disengagement.
This is the first positive move against the settlement enterprise in nearly four decades, and every effort must be made to facilitate it. In this context, clumsy and often futile attempts to remove outposts on the West Bank are a distraction, if not downright counterproductive in terms of the government's ability to recruit the necessary support for disengagement on the political right.
Of course, one could argue that a government and an army and police force that are incapable of removing two containers from a lonely West Bank hilltop will never be able to remove 21 settlements with their 8,000 residents, regardless of who takes over the land and where the fences lie. But if that is indeed the case, then better to come to grips with the consequences--that the settlers have won the day and in their messianic fervor have driven the state of Israel into a South African situation without a South African solution--in the clear-cut instance of trying to remove the Gaza Strip settlements rather than in confronting the West Bank outposts.
Let's hope it doesn't get to that.- Published 21/2/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and bitterlemons-international.org. He is a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former senior adviser to PM Ehud Barak.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
The settler is the king
by Issa Samandar
Saeed Talib is an American citizen and a West Bank farmer. Neither is standing him in good stead at the moment. He has not been able to tend to his land in the village of Turmus Ayya on the road north to Nablus for four years, and he is afforded no legal recourse from any quarter.
Some six years ago, a settlement outpost was established near the village. The settler who first drove up his caravan on an empty hilltop has since become notorious. All the villagers know him as Boaz. He is no longer alone.
Now, some 50 caravans stand beside his. According to Israeli law, these settlement outposts are illegal. But the Israeli government has nevertheless provided them with paved roads, electricity and running water.
Saeed and his fellow villagers have been allowed onto their land for only a few days a year since the intifada began. These are during the October-November olive harvest season. The farmers are desperate. Two days a year, only to harvest, is neither here nor there. For the rest of the year they are prevented from tending their land, from planting seedlings or from weeding and trimming.
Before the intifada, farmers used to defy the settlers. There were many confrontations and arguments. Just before the intifada broke out, Boaz awoke to find his herd of sheep gone and his dogs dead.
He strolled into another nearby village al-Mughayyer, and hung up leaflets in Hebrew. The leaflets warned the villagers that if he was not compensated $1,500 per dog and his sheep were not returned within 24 hours, he, Boaz, would cut down 700 trees. No money and no sheep were forthcoming. The next day, Boaz returned with an armed gang and in the presence of the Israeli army cut down 700 trees. Months later, villagers reported that his sheep had been found in the Jordan Valley, and his purpose had been to claim compensation.
The violence doesn't stop. On the outskirts of another nearby village, Sinjel, settlers from Ma'ale Levona erected caravans the Israeli government now describes as "semi-illegal", or "scheduled to become legal". These settlers' wont is to burn down wheat fields every summer. Last summer 50 dunams were thus laid to waste before the villagers could put out the fire. To protect these settlers, the Israeli army built a camp next to the outpost. Every one knows that one day, that camp will be filled with more settlers.
During the intifada, confronting the settlers has become far too dangerous for the farmers. There is little direct contact. Villagers have been warned to stay at a distance of 1,000 to 1,500 meters from the "borders" of any settlement or outpost. Any closer and they are shot at, sometimes wounded and sometimes killed. The settlers are above the law. People are shot, their fields are burned and their machinery or houses damaged. The settler is the king of the West Bank.
When Saeed went to harvest olives on the two days he was allowed onto his land he was shot at. His car was burned. Settlers came to chase him away. He told them he would call the police. One shouted back at him: "I'll give you my number. I am the police. I am the army." The settler is king.
According to international law, all settlements are illegal. According to Israeli law, the outposts, established without prior planning with the Israeli army, are illegal. This illegality, however, has become a means for the army to avoid confronting outpost settlers. They simply don't apply the law.
Outposts have a habit of multiplying and expanding. They have a habit of becoming permanent. They are the biggest provocation faced by ordinary people on the ground. On the same day as the signing of the Oslo Accords, a concerted Israeli drive to multiply settlements and outposts in the West Bank in particular was set in motion. The number of settlers doubled between 1993 and 2000. The signal to the average Palestinian was unmistakable. While Israeli officials smiled on TV they took more land on the ground.
At a time of some confidence between the two sides, it took a while before this obvious transgression of the spirit if not the letter of the Oslo Accords was translated into direct anger.
Now, after the latest intifada, very much sparked by anger at the continued settlement expansions and the flourishing of settlement outposts, there is no confidence. If Israel wants to persuade any Palestinian that it is serious about peace, that it is serious about two states, then these outposts must be removed. People no longer believe fine words. People want results on the ground.
I am not hopeful. In the West Bank, the settler remains king.- Published 21/2/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Issa Samandar is the director of the Land Defense General Committees, a grassroots NGO that seeks to advise people whose lands are either out of bounds to them or confiscated because of settlements and outposts, how to fight back through legal means and peaceful, political, direct action methods.
AN ISRAELI VIEW|
by Dror Etkes
The idea of devoting an article to the outposts provokes a principled objection. After all, what is the point of distinguishing between a discussion of outposts and a discussion of the entire settlement enterprise? Clearly the outposts are nothing less than new or expanded settlements, established in recent years.
In this sense, institutionalizing the "outposts issue" as a separate topic for discussion is simply one more expression of the success of the settler right wing in normalizing a prolonged situation in which the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis are lived beyond the state's sovereign borders, in an area where for generations there has lived another population devoid of basic rights. Moreover, the mere fact of a separate discussion of the outposts serves the settlers as an additional line of defense: anyone who tries to breach it, in the process causing political and media casualties, will wake up one day to discover that the "legal settlements" have in the interim tripled and quadrupled in size.
Sound familiar? This in brief is the story of Israeli settlement in the West Bank over the past ten years.
Here is an example that clearly illustrates the phenomenon. Migron (about 40 families), HaRoeh (some 15 families) and Havat Gilad (three families plus a varying number of disturbed youth) are three out of about 100 outposts scattered around the West Bank whose names come up every few months when an attempt--usually abortive--is made to remove a chicken coop or container that was smuggled into them in the dead of night.
Does any serious person with even the slightest knowledge of the network of settlements that slices the West Bank into tens of separate enclaves, believe for a minute that the presence of at most 250 Israelis (most of them infants and children) living in these three settlements in any way alters the future of Israeli control over the West Bank? The periodic discussion concerning these or other outposts constitutes precisely that wall of consciousness and media that the settlers exploit in order to divert the discussion away from the real questions that Israeli society must urgently address.
Were a serious discussion ever enjoined regarding the future of the West Bank and the settlements, the alternative names that would come up would be those of the three settlements that those three outposts abut: Kochav Yaakov (about 4,000 people), Eli (some 2,200) and Qadumim (around 3,000 persons). In all three of these settlements, the population has doubled or tripled in the past decade. Such a discussion would oblige Israeli society first and foremost to recognize and internalize two simple facts of life.
First, that two separate peoples, Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, live in this land. And second, that it is impossible for the fate of one of the two peoples to be determined for a prolonged period of time arbitrarily by the other--precisely the political program the settlements and outposts were established to implement.
Nevertheless, an historic discussion of the settlements does seem to spotlight one unique aspect of the outposts--more precisely of some of the outposts, particularly those established in recent years--that differs from the overall story of the settlement enterprise.
The establishment of some of the outposts reflects an evolutionary stage whereby the very strength of the political and bureaucratic establishment created to serve the settlements began to generate antibodies.
This is the stage when the central Israeli government lost control not only over the behavior of the settlers but also over the disposition of the huge resources that the state put at their disposal. Thus there has evolved a distorted reality in which the heads of the West Bank settlers' regional councils, who were chosen to collect land taxes in order to repair roads and sidewalks, have ended up formulating Israel's foreign and security policies.
Perhaps in a generation or two, when historical perspective allows for it, someone will write a comprehensive treatise that attempts to sum up the West Bank settlement enterprise. A quick perusal of the book's index of names and concepts will likely note that the name Ariel Sharon has the most references, followed by concepts like "folly", "evil" and perhaps "naivete" as well.
And, of course, the term "irony".- Published 21/2/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Dror Etkes has headed the Peace Now Settlement Monitoring Unit since early 2002.
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