Israel is once again negotiating with criminals, said Tel Aviv’s Ha’aretz in an editorial. Not with terrorists, mind you, but with Israeli settler scofflaws. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is reportedly about to reach an agreement with settler representatives who say they will get rid of a few illegal settlement “outposts”—really just “rusty shacks” set up in Arab territory—if the government agrees to bestow legal status on other outposts. Barak isn’t motivated by any desire to reduce the number of Israeli buildings that the Israeli army must defend. Nor does he feel a need to abide by government commitments under the “road map” peace plan, which calls for the dismantling of settlements on Palestinian land. Instead, he plans to shutter a few shacks to placate a large and vocal Israeli human-rights group, Peace Now, which has been filing lawsuits against the government, charging it with ignoring its legal commitments. It’s hard to decide what’s worse: that the government has such a “forgiving attitude toward Israeli lawbreakers in the territories” or that it must be threatened with legal action before it will obey its own laws. One thing, though, is clear: “Every day the outposts remain in place is another day in which every member of the government is abusing his office.”
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