Settler crime always pays

Mitzpe Yehuda shepherds’ outpost, West Bank, April 2022

The Haaretz lead editorial for 6 September 2022:

The settlement enterprise’s land grab in Area C of the West Bank continues at full force, under the auspices of the Civil Administration and with the aid of the army and successive Israeli governments. Now the agency is putting forward a plan that would enable the legalization of dozens of illegal, so-called shepherd outposts.

Over the past several years the number of shepherd outposts has grown to 50, earning this form of settler takeover the dubious title of “most common form of settlement outpost in the West Bank.” According to a study by Kerem Navot, which researches and monitors Israeli land use practice and policy in the West Bank, the illegal outposts with the pastoral name have allowed settlers to take control of about 60,000 acres, almost 7 percent of the land classified as Area C.

The appropriation of the land is carried out using what could be called the settler-goat method: A goat, that is a flock of goats and sheep, is brought into an area, creating a need for extensive pasture land. Most of the shepherding outposts in the West Bank operate without a grazing contract from the Agriculture Ministry and only a few have obtained such contracts from the World Zionist Organization Settlement Division.

The tremendous advantage of the method is that it enables the control of maximum land with minimum settler manpower. After the method of plunder is established and used to take control of tens of thousands of acres, the second phase of the plan is introduced: “regularization.” First you break the law, then you change the law to legalize the looting.

That is the mission that Ze’ev Hever – head of Amana, the executive arm of the settlement movement, who has regrettably but to no one’s surprise found a sympathetic audience in the Civil Administration – has taken on. The protocol now being drafted would enable the legalization of the 30 to 35 of the existing farm outposts that meet its main criterion: They are located on so-called state land. If it is approved, the protocol would allow for the establishment of additional such outposts.

Once again, the settlers have proved that Jewish crime in the territories always pays. The Civil Administration began formulating the draft regulation about two years ago, against the background of the increase in the number of these outposts. The proper response to the growing number of farms established illegally would have been to see to their removal and to step up enforcement. Instead, the agency bowed down to the settler masters and seeks to cut the law to fit their vices.

The Civil Administration alone cannot approve the new protocol. The defense minister and the Justice Ministry must also sign off on it. Defense Minister Benny Gantz has not yet said where he stands. He is waiting for the protocol to be presented to him. It must be hoped that he recognizes that it is a looting mechanism designed to take control of more and more of Area C, to prevent Palestinians from working their land and to reduce their living space.

He must not lend a hand to an action that encroaches on Palestinian territory, in violation of agreements that Israel has signed, and that encourages settler criminality. Gantz must reject the protocol completely and even order the evacuation of the existing shepherd outposts.

This editorial is published in its entirety

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