Settlements in the territories are legal in terms of Israeli law and illegal in terms of Palestinian law. Current international law also bans settlements on occupied territories, but that idealistic doctrine arose after 1946 and was never tested in legal practice. The UN doesn’t dispute the legality of Russian settlements on the occupied Kuril Islands. The practice of settling on occupied territories is historically standard and enjoys plenty of precedent. The benchmark for international acceptance of the settling of occupied territories seems to be the occupier’s resolve to hold onto them, transforming de facto into de jure through the expiration of the stature of limitations.

The Israeli establishment is reluctant to destroy the outposts (the illegal settlements on strategic hilltops). The outpost activity handily allows right-wing activists to blow off steam, and is insignificant in terms of the territory or the number of people involved. Some outposts are barely legal under Israeli law (being based on the Ottoman law of thirty-day homestead), and all of them can be evicted promptly at the government’s whim; the Supreme Court will sanction the eviction. Conservative activists cannot stop the dismantling of outposts. Even if they sneak behind the IDF’s cordons, the activists cannot stay in the outposts forever. The army can stay longer and come repeatedly, and will eventually evict the settlers.

Passive defense never works, and the settlers’ defenders are unwilling to take an active stance, either by firing at the approaching police or by committing terrorist acts throughout the country against Arabs and their Jewish collaborators. The settlers are also a surprisingly peaceful crowd; they want to be left alone in their remote villages and avoid confrontation either with Arabs or Jewish police.

The outposts are important as a political statement and deserve help, but they cannot stake the territory for Jews. The outposts diffuse foreign attention; diplomats with narrow understanding of the concept of legality and no pioneering spirit lash out against the outposts. In that sense, the outposts defend larger settlements against the Western pro-Arab rage.

on the utility of Israeli illegal outposts