Israel Expands Shilo Settlement’s Jurisdiction to Legalize the Ahiya Outpost

The Civil Administration has announced its intention to include the Ahiya outpost within the jurisdiction of the Shilo settlement, allowing planning for the regularization of the outpost to begin. The implication is the recognition of the outpost as legal under Israeli law. The Ahiya outpost is situated east of the settlement of Shilo. In an agreement signed between Minister Smotrich and Minister Galant nearly a year ago, the Settlement Administration (established by and under the authority of Minister Smotrich) was granted the authority to approve outposts as new neighborhoods of nearby settlements. This decision does not require approval from the security cabinet.

Peace Now: “Establishing another settlement is the last thing Israel needs. Deepening Israeli presence in the West Bank serves only a small and extremist group in Israel and harms the entire Israeli public. The Israeli government, under Minister Smotrich’s leadership, continues to evade a political solution and imposes facts on the ground that will escalate violence and deepen the dispossession and oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank.”

The Ahiya outpost was established in 1997 and is one of the first outposts established during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister. The outpost was set up adjacent to hundreds of acres of agricultural land worked by residents of the villages of Jalud and Qaryut. In the center of the outpost, there are private Palestinian lands that will remain outside the jurisdiction. The public has 21 days to submit objections to the decision. After the expansion of Shilo’s jurisdiction, the Civil Administration will need to prepare a master plan and approve it in planning committees. Only after approval of the plans will the outpost be considered a legal neighborhood of the Shilo settlement.

During the Second Intifada, in the early 2000s, settlers and the IDF prevented Palestinians from accessing the cultivated lands, which were later declared state lands (the law in the West Bank is based on the Ottoman law, which allows for the declaration of private lands as public/state lands if they are not registered in the Land Registration Office and not worked for three consecutive years). The Ahiya outpost is known in Israel due to the Ahiya olive oil brand. Ahiya produces olive oil on privately owned Palestinian land and lands declared state lands.

According to Peace Now’s estimation, the decision to approve the outpost of Ahiya as a neighborhood of Shilo rather than a new settlement is intended to prevent international criticism and the need to pass the decision in the security cabinet. On the other hand, the decision serves Minister Smotrich, who in the past month has exerted increased authority over settlements and declared a record number of dunams as state lands, promoted thousands of housing units, and more.

In 2023, Israel approved five outposts as new settlement neighborhoods, reaching a record number of 15 outposts approved as settlements in 2023. In 2018, Minister Smotrich proposed legislation to regulate approximately 70 outposts as settlements. Since assuming office, he has announced several initiatives to achieve this objective.