Almost 40 years ago, Aharon Barak, who was attorney-general at the time, launched a criminal investigation against soon-to-be Governor of the Bank of Israel, Asher Yadlin. In a now-famous remark, Barak said that "justice for Yadlin will be the same as justice for Buzaglo." Yadlin is a typical Ashkenazi name, while Buzaglo is a common Moroccan name. Barak meant to assert that society's stronger and weaker members have equal standing before the law. Indeed, Yadlin was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison.
Guess what? The Buzaglo test applies to Ulpana Hill in Beit El. Because if the same housing complex were located not in Beit El, but in Ramat Aviv or Netanya's Kiryat Nordau neighborhood, and it suddenly came to light that dozens of families had been living on private land unlawfully purchased by an entrepreneur, there is no question what would happen: The state attorney and courts would find a way to fairly compensate the landowner. It would never occur to them to destroy multifamily housing in Tel Aviv or Netanya, or to evict the residents.
But when it comes to Buzaglo, in other words when the mistake, assuming there was mistake, concerns Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, then it all becomes political and common sense flies out the window. The state attorney, courts and defense minister suddenly adopt a very strict interpretation of the law.
There are precedents in which similar problems were resolved through compensation to the owners of private land where apartments had been built, even in the territories. In the Samaria community of Barkan, land trader Moshe Zar discovered one day that populated apartment buildings had gone up on his land. As with Ulpana Hill, the state had helped to build these buildings, and also provided mortgages and incentive grants to residents. When the error came to light, it never occurred to anyone to evict families or destroy the buildings. Instead, the state compensated Zar.
Attorney-General Weinstein and his deputy, Mike Blass, are well aware of these precedents. They also know that the multistory buildings in Beit El bear no resemblance to illegal "outposts." They possess the wherewithal to come to an arrangement regarding the buildings and prevent their demolition. If that is psychologically taxing for them, they can get help from the diplomatic echelon, who have commissioned opinions from top jurists outlining a legal resolution. One of these is a former clerk to Aharon Barak.
According to civil administration data, more than 1,100 housing units in Judea and Samaria have been built on private Palestinian land. About 7,000 people live there. If Ulpana Hill is destroyed without a systemic resolution to the problem, even a constitutional one, sooner or later we will have an evacuation on the scale of Gush Katif on our hands.
Could it be that this is where the government wishes to lead us? In east Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Negev, and Judea and Samaria, ways have been found to retroactively authorize the illegal Arab construction of thousands of housing units. If it can be done for them, then it can be done, on a far smaller scale, for the Jews of Judea and Samaria as well.