Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office sent a rare letter Wednesday to Defense Minister Benny Gantz warning him not to demolish an illegal outpost that was recently established by national religious settlers in the northern West Bank.
In the letter, Netanyahu’s chief of staff Asher Ohayon said the head of the Israeli Defense Forces Central Command did not have the authority to issue a directive this week prohibiting further construction at the Evyatar outpost and ordering everyone the inhabitants to leave the site with their belongings starting next week. Ohayon said such sensitive military orders require the prime minister’s approval, a claim the defense ministry has since rejected.
Netanyahu’s chief of staff also noted that the state of the land near the Tapuah junction on which dozens of structures have been erected without the necessary permits remains unclear. The Defense Ministry has yet to inspect the land and if it determines that enough time has passed since its original Palestinian owners had worked in the area, the state will take control of the land and may decide to legalize the outpost.
The land on which Evyatar was re-established in April historically belonged to the adjacent Palestinian villages of Beta, Kablan and Yitma, although residents have been denied access for decades for what the IDF claimed were security reasons.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the swearing-in ceremony for the 24th Knesset, April 6, 2021. (Knesset spokesperson)
Evyatar has already been razed several times since it was founded in 2013 following the murder of Yitzhar resident Evyatar Borovsky in a stabbing attack at the Tapuah intersection.
The outpost has grown rapidly over the past couple of months, reaching around 40 buildings. Daniella Weiss, head of the founding organization of the Nahala Outpost, told Haaretz that 42 families have already moved and that another 75 families are interested in following suit.
The outpost’s Facebook page boasts that Evyatar prevents contiguity between surrounding Palestinian villages while connecting the Israeli settlement of Tapuah to the Za’atara junction and the Migdalim settlement.
The Civil Administration. the defense ministry body responsible for building permits in the West Bank said in a statement that the buildings in Evyatar were erected “illegally without the necessary permits”.
He added that “the application” [against the illegal building] it will be carried out in accordance with correct procedures and will be subject to operational considerations. “
A decision on whether or not to proceed with the demolition will likely pose one of the first challenges for the new government due to take office on Sunday.
While he presided over dozens of such demolitions as prime minister, Netanyahu prepares to oppose the move from outside the government and question the right-wing good faith of the new coalition led by chairman of Yamina Naftali Bennett – a former director of the Yesha Settlers Lobby. of the Council.
While Bennett’s Yamina, New Hope, and Yisrael Beytenu are longtime supporters of the settlements movement, they will sit in a government with the left-wing Meretz and Labor parties, which oppose Israeli construction beyond the Green Line. It is likely that the Blue and White centrist parties and Yesh Atid will also support such demolition, as Evyatar was unquestionably built illegally.
On Monday, Shas MK Moshe Arbel smuggled construction materials to Evyatar, violating the military order put in place the day before.
Arbel defended his actions, citing what he described as rampant illegal construction in the area by local Palestinians.
“When I contact the defense minister and he tells me there are no regulations and we can’t enforce the [illegal] The Arab construction, therefore, the order that prohibits, exclusively for Jews, the construction and introduction of building materials is not legitimate, “Arbel said.” I used my parliamentary immunity to help form the agreement. We came here to build this country ».