Throughout the day on 12 June 2018, security forces evacuated 15 houses in the illegal outpost of Nativ Ha’avot, in line with the High Court of Justice ruling on a petition submitted by Peace Now and 7 of the Palestinian landowners. The evictions were carried out after numerous delays and manipulative tactics by the settlers of Nativ Ha’avot and the Israeli government, who did everything in their power to prevent the evictions, even though the houses were built on private Palestinian lands, and despite the fact that the state itself issued the demolition orders for all the structures in the outpost.
The Nativ Ha’Avot Outpost – A story of theft and obstructing the law
The first structures in Nativ Ha’Avot were established in 2001 during the Second Intifada after the settlers had successfully prevented the Palestinian landowners, residents of Al Khader, from renovating their agricultural terraces for which they had previously acquired approval from the Civil Administration.
Each structure of the outpost received a demolition order from the Civil Administration shortly after the beginning of construction. Nevertheless, settlers continued to build in Nativ Ha’Avot, knowing full well that they were breaking the law. From the outset, Palestinian landowners complained about the settlers’ construction on their land to the police and to the Civil Administration. After their complaints went nowhere, the landowners turned to the Supreme Court with a number of petitions against this land theft and illegal construction.
These petitions resulted in the parties being sent to examine the status of the land, which was not completed. In 2008, Peace Now joined the landowners in a new petition demanding the evacuation of all the outpost structures.
In response to this petition, the state informed the High Court that it intended to conduct a land survey and declare the land on which the outpost was built as state land. The state also promised that if it turns out that there are buildings built on private land they will be evacuated. On the basis of this undertaking, the High Court rejected the petition.
In 2014, the state declared most of the land of the outpost as state land and some 17 structures were found to be built on private land. The landowners filed an appeal against the declaration, claiming that all of the land was privately owned, and the appeal is still pending before the Military Appeals Committee.
The Petition that Led to the Recent Evictions
Although the land survey conducted by the Civil Administration determined that 17 structures in the outpost were fully or partially located on private land, the state did not evacuate them, despite its explicit commitment to the High Court of Justice. Because nothing was done to compel the state to do so, the landowners and Peace Now filed a new petition demanding the demolition of the structures that turned out to be on private land, even according to the state’s own definitions.
On 1 September 2016, the High Court justices ruled that the structures should be demolished and that the state be given a year and a half to carry out the demolition (in March 2018). About a month before the year-and-a-half deadline, however, the state submitted a request to the Court to postpone the evacuation by another three months, which the Court subsequently granted. Thus, former Supreme Court President, Justice Miriam Naor, wrote in on 1 September 2016 that “No one disputes that all the structures that were the subject of the petition were built illegally, without a plan for the outpost being approved, and without proper permits. Therefore, the guiding principle for the decision is the state’s obligation to enforce the planning and building laws . . . This illegality remains true whether the land is private or public. . . . The time has come for a decision. In light of the state’s withdrawal from its commitment to the court, and without any clear justification for this, the prolonged violation of the law can no longer be accepted. It should be remembered that the violation of the rule of law is increasing with the passage of time during which the illegality remains unchanged.” (Read more on the Nativ Ha’Avot file).
Compensation for Construction Offenders
Last February, the government approved a compensation plan using taxpayer money for the Nativ Ha’Avot evictees. According to the government’s decision, the total compensation to be allocated for evicting the 15 families amounted to NIS 60 million ($17 million). On average each family is slated to receive NIS 1.8 million (over $500,000), while the Gush Etzion Regional Council would receive NIS 30 million ($8.6 million).
The amount allocated to the Gush Etzion Regional Council was for the purpose of establishing a temporary residential site, assisting the settlers, and strengthening the settlements in the area, according to the decision. As stated, each family would receive personal compensation even though these are families who built their homes without a permit and without paying a cent for the land, which also happened to be private Palestinian land, in violation of the law. (More about the compensation outline [Hebrew]).
Peace Now: “After 17 years of theft, evasions, delays, and manipulation, justice is being served as the private land on which the Nativ Ha’Avot outpost was built is being vacated, in line with the High Court of Justice’s ruling. We hope these evictions will send a clear message that crime does not pay, and that anyone who builds on land without authorization or even purchasing it first will ultimately be compelled to leave. Peace Now will continue to monitor all settlement construction in the West Bank, and will fight against any land theft or attempt to destroy the viability of a two-state solution.”