In 1979, an Israeli settlement was established on land in Rujeb, southeast of Nablus in Judea and Samaria. When the High Court of Justice ruled that the settlement had been built illegally (as it was constructed on privately owned Palestinian land that was requisitioned for a civilian settlement and not for military purposes), then Prime Minister Menachem Begin did not hesitate to order that it be relocated. His actions upheld the rule of law and strengthened the settlement enterprise. They paved the way for the establishment of the Elon Moreh settlement and, as Begin had promised, led to the creation of "many more Elon Morehs."
In his decision on Saturday to relocate disputed homes in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El while vowing to build 10 new homes for each one that is removed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed in Begin's footsteps. He followed the path that maintains that it is possible to pursue a settlement enterprise that is subject to the rule of law and to High Court rulings. His decision sanctifies the approach of the Likud as a national liberal party that attracts wide swaths of the centrist and right-wing public in Israel and legitimizes the settlement enterprise.
The prime minister did not succumb to the temptation of magic legal solutions, such as the "outpost arrangement bill," whose damage would far outweigh the benefit its authors had hoped to gain. Promoting such an initiative would have created a situation in which the Knesset legislates laws over land whose residents don't have the right to vote. This, in turn, would have sparked a wave of international criticism. Even Israel's closest allies would not have been able to defend such legislation, which would tarnish the country's reputation with accusations of apartheid and threaten it with international sanctions. In the end, the High Court would have ruled that this law does not apply in Judea and Samaria, and the government would have had to implement the court order.
Netanyahu is offering settlers the best proposal possible under the circumstances: The five structures built illegally will be removed, but dozens of legally constructed buildings will rise instead. That way, the settlement enterprise will continue to grow while the supremacy of the law is maintained. I hope that the settlers accept the prime minister's decision and cooperate with the government, which has no peer and never will when it comes to protecting their interests.
The writer is the improvement of government services minister and a member of the Likud party.