David Wilder, the executive director of the Eretz Organization, and Professor Amihai Cohen, the director of the Amnon Lipkan-Shahak Program on National Security and Democracy at the Israel Democracy Institute, discuss what is the Regulation Law and its implications for the State of Israel.
In about a week, the Regulation Law will be voted upon in the Israeli Knesset. As it presently stands, this piece of legislation will permit the legalization of hundreds of thousands of Jewish homes located over the green line. While the Regulation Law will not solve the Amona crisis for the Israeli Supreme Court already ruled on that issue, it is set to dramatically alter the situation over the green line for other Jewish settlements. In the wake of this development, many are probably wondering, what is the Regulation Law and how will it affect the State of Israel? In order to answer this question, JerusalemOnline turned to Hebron Jewish activist David Wilder, who is the executive director of the Eretz Organization, and Professor Amihai Cohen, who is the director of the Amnon Lipkan-Shahak Program on National Security and Democracy at the Israel Democracy Institute.
“The Regulation Law, due to be passed in the Knesset next week, is aimed towards the retroactive legalization of Jewish communities throughout Judea and Samaria,” Wilder told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview. “The necessity of such a law can be understood via the present situation within the Amona community due to be destroyed by the order of the Israeli government. This is because Arabs spurred on by left wing organizations such as Peace Now and others make ownership claims on land not lived on for at least decades until Israel builds communities on that land.”
According to Wilder, the root of the Amona crisis rests with the Israeli Supreme Court: “The Israeli Supreme Court, one of the most left wing bodies in Israel, tends to blindly accept the Arab claims and then demands that the Jewish homes be destroyed and its residents expelled. In order to prevent such cases, the Regulation Law will retroactively legalize all communities in Judea and Samaria while offering monetary compensation to any previous land owners who claim this property as their own. It is thought to be in the opinion of many an extremely important law. And as described above, it is.”
However, Wilder does have a reservation about the law: “It seems rather problematic that Israel should need to legalize property and communities. After all, the State of Israel was created in order to settle the land. Would such an Arab claim on Ramat Aviv in Tel Aviv or Har Nof in Jerusalem be considered legitimate? Of course not! But it seems that the law of Tel Aviv and the law of Judea and Samaria are far from being equal. In my opinion, this law is only the first step towards actual legalization. My definition of legalization is annexation. When Judea and Samaria become officially part of the State of Israel, these issues will no longer exist.”
However, Professor Amihai Cohen of the Israel Democracy Institute offers a different perspective. While Cohen acknowledges that evicting the people from Amona and other Jewish communities can be considered to be a cruel act, he nevertheless urges Israeli policy makers to take note that the Regulation Law reverses decades of Israeli policy making that is designed to preserve Israel’s legitimacy and the rule of law. “Although the State of Israel asserts a claim of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, it has never annexed the territories,” Cohen emphasized. “Successive Israeli governments have sought to avoid conflict with the international community and to sidestep the necessity of giving millions of Palestinian residents in Judea and Samaria full citizenship rights. As a result of this decision, Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria is not grounded in the Knesset’s civil authority but rather in the IDF’s military authority. According to international law, as long as the Israeli military controls the area, laws related to belligerent occupation apply. Since 1967, the Supreme Court has used these laws of belligerent occupation in thousands of rulings to oversee Israel’s actions in Judea and Samaria.”
“Over the years, most of these rulings did not limit Israel’s policies,” he noted. “The Supreme Court has not forbidden the establishment of Israeli settlements on land that is publicly owned. The high court allowed the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land for security purposes and even for public purposes such as building roads. However, the Supreme Court has never allowed the state to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land for the sole purpose of establishing an Israeli settlement. As such, the Regulation Bill creates a slew of legal and political problems for Israel.”
While Wilder champions the Regulation Law precisely because he views it to be the first step towards annexation and thus creating equality between Jewish communities over the green line and Tel Aviv, Cohen believes that the international community will punish Israel for it precisely because they will view it as the first step towards annexing those areas without “even considering granting full citizenship rights to the Palestinian residents of those lands. Secondly, by expropriating privately owned Palestinian land for the purpose of establishing an Israeli settlement, the act undercuts Israel’s claim that the settlements do not deny Palestinians their rights. In this context, it is worth noting that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary examination regarding allegations filed by Palestine against Israel. Among other claims, the complaints are directed against the expropriation of privately owned land for the purpose of establishing settlements. The Regulation Law would increase the chances that the ICC’s prosecutor will view the issue as a serious violation of international law and would opt for opening a full-fledged investigation.”
On the other side of the coin, Wilder believes that Israel should annex the territories even if it does create problems for Israel in the international arena merely because the Jewish people have history in the area that predates the rise of Islam and the Arab invasion in the 7th century by thousands of years: “Annexation will right the wrong not of the past 50 years but rather of the past 2,000 years since the Romans expelled the Jews from this land. The Arabs in cooperation with the EU, UN and US attempt to do the same. The authentic Regulation Law is the transformation of the heart of Israel from being ‘the territories’ or the ‘West Bank’ into being just plain Israel, as it is in Haifa and Beersheba.”