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Ofra first

By Haaretz Editorial

Sunday 17 August 2008

Sun., August 17, 2008 Av 16, 5768

For two years now, a raging debate has centered on the question of when, if ever, the government will evacuate the illegal outpost of Migron. Meanwhile, observe as the settlers add yet another caravan to the outpost, Peace Now monitors warn us. Watch as the Americans pressure the government to evacuate the outposts immediately. See the High Court of Justice instruct the state to clear out the buildings because they were built on private land owned by Palestinians who filed the court petition. Then we hear the state prosecutors announce that the evacuation will be carried out no later than August. The settlers, meanwhile, take pains to remind us of the bloody riots at Amona and threaten an encore. And Defense Minister Ehud Barak cooks up a deal to relocate Migron a few hundred meters away in exchange for “legalizing” the outpost and turning it into a settlement.

Shifting the discussion on the future of the settlements from the political arena into the realm of law, thus changing the crux of the matter from setting a border between us and the Palestinians to the legality of the settlements themselves, does not bring us closer to a diplomatic solution. Rather, it moves us further away.

Focusing public attention on marginal issues, sending paperwork that proves property ownership from one lawyer to the next and distinguishing between a legal settlement and an illegal outpost are all means designed to preserve the status quo. After all, from a political point of view, it makes no difference whatsoever if the caravan at Migron was legally added or whether it was placed closer or further away from Ofra and Ma’aleh Mikhmash. What matters is how the State of Israel will look in another 50 years, after a continued occupation of the territories - when it will be impossible to divide the land into two states, when the nationalist conflict will be even more tinged with hatred and bloodshed, with armed militias roaming the land, with Hamas strengthened, as the government’s control over the territories becomes impossible to maintain.

At present we are witnessing the final days of yet another government that failed to promote a political solution. Moving a few homes from Migron does not absolve it from its historic miss. Another government that held peace talks is gasping its final breaths. The next government that takes its place will find itself faced with more settlers on the same patch of land that is slated for partition, whether they reside in Migron or in another settlement.

Migron is no more legal or illegal than Ofra, located beside it. It was Ofra’s residents who founded Migron, for the purpose of housing the next generation of settlers, all the while grasping for another hilltop. Itai Harel (from Migron) is no different than his father Israel Harel (from Ofra). Both of them are guided by the same lunacy according to which the entire Land of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is ours. Both men built their settlements on private and public Palestinian land, with the state’s financial and political support. Public opinion polls and the current distribution of Knesset seats point to a consensus that this territory is meant to serve as the foundation for a future Palestinian state. The settlers and the government have rendered the possibility of implementing such a scenario more remote.

The High Court ruled that Migron was built on private lands and thus needs to relocate sooner or later. Yet, one Migron less or one Migron more will not alter the overall picture. Circumstances in the West Bank are conspiring to create one state with greater rights for Jews. Partition is becoming impossible to implement. This is the future toward which the Israeli public - both right and left - is marching while it obsesses over a caravan in Migron.