A group of ministers, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was set to convene on Friday to devise a plan on how to satisfy the residents of the disputed Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El while carrying out the order of the High Court of Justice to evacuate them and demolish their homes. A conundrum.
Let's hope that the prime minister isn't led astray by easily excitable and irresponsible voices that seek to solve the problem in one fell swoop with a haphazard law, a law that would circumvent the High Court decision to evacuate the neighborhood and allow the settlers to remain where they are as though nothing had happened. A law bypassing the High Court -- the "Arrangement Law" as it is called by its misguided supporters -- will not only erode the court's authority, but also tarnish whatever is left of Israel's good name across the democratic world.
MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Yaakov Katz (National Union) don't understand, or pretend not to understand, the damage that they do to Israel when they lump the High Court of Justice together with the left-wing party Meretz. Legal legend Alan Dershowitz explained during a speech in Tel Aviv some time ago that Israel's Supreme Court was the biggest (and nearly the only) asset Israel had in the minds of the public in countries whose support Israel so desperately needs. To erode its authority? To destroy it? To chip away at it? For a handful of settlers? Such a law would represent a lapse of national good judgment.
However, it is imperative to devise a solution that will satisfy everyone, or one that won't satisfy anyone but will be equitable. In my weekend column I proposed one option, of the many possible solutions. I proposed that the government legally purchase the property rights from the residents of the Ulpana neighborhood (decent, law-abiding, honorable people), and do so generously. Thus, the neighborhood will be restored in its entirety to its original owners, just as the government oversees Palestinian lands and facilities in Judea and Samaria, thus the government will also be overseeing the Ulpana neighborhood. Since its residents will no longer have property rights there, but they will have received generous compensation, they will pay the government rent, and remain in their homes. The government will hold on to the funds until the district court handling the Palestinian land ownership lawsuit determines who the true owners are, of the land as well as of the homes built on it.
This is a critical point: Just as the government is responsible for private Palestinian land within Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, so it will be in Ulpana, even though Ulpana is not just land, it is now covered in concrete and bricks and mortar. The district court will then rule, and then the Supreme Court will rule on the appeal. Meanwhile, the government will make sure that from now on, not another single tile is laid on private Palestinian land. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon created the current state of anarchy by calling on Israel's youth to settle on every hill and under every tree. That should have been nipped in the bud, so that later we wouldn't have these sprawling neighborhoods populated by decent people like the people of Ulpana.
It is very likely that there are other good solutions to this problem. Perhaps even more efficient than mine. The government can choose whichever solution it deems fit, but with one condition: that it refrains from legislating this absurd "Arrangement Law," which would make a mockery of the rule of law.