The establishment of a settlement in Evyatar is a security burden, political damage and a reward for criminals.
Defense Minister Ganz intends to soon establish a new settlement in the area of Jabal Sabeih where the Evyatar outpost was established near the village of Beita, south of Nablus. In recent days, it has been published that the minister intends to establish the settlement soon, and that he even suggested that the homesh settlers move their yeshiva (religious school for youngster) there. It should be recalled that Minister Ganz promised the settlers that he would consider establishing a settlement on the site after a clarification of the status of the land.
Peace Now: There is no justification in the world for establishing a new settlement in the West Bank, which will be a security burden, a political blow and a reward for outlaws. The small settler group who established the outpost in Evyatar did so illegally, with the aim of dragging Israel to deepen the occupation and prevent its end, and they led to daily risk of IDF soldiers and severe escalation of violence in the area. The government must come to its senses and stop this madness and not be dragged after a small minority.
Background: The establishment of the illegal outpost Evyatar:
During the last month of May, settlers set up a new illegal outpost at Jabal Sabeih near the village of Beita, and presented a fact on the ground to the new government that was set up in early June. Defense Minister Gantz reached a “compromise” with the settlers, according to which they will agree to evacuate the outpost, and an IDF force will be stationed in the area to guard the structures they erected, that will remain on the ground until the status of the land is checked. The Minister of Defense undertook to conduct a land survey and examine whether it is possible to declare land in the area as “state lands”, and if it turns out that this can be done, then a settlement will be established at the site. Initially, an educational institution will be established, including student and staff housing, and then when all the planning procedures are completed, the settlement will be established.
In October, it was reported that the Civil Administration had completed the land survey and found that 60 dunams could be declared in the outpost area as state lands. It is important to note that at the time, the legal opinion without which it is not possible to declare lands as state lands has not yet been completed. It now appears that the defense minister intends to establish a settlement in the area, that is, the survey procedure has apparently been completed.
The settlement in Evyatar is a security damage, endangering soldiers and civilians and leading to escalation
The establishment of the outpost, which was carried out without any approval from the political or security echelon, led to a security burden for the IDF at a particularly sensitive time, and requires many resources to defend the new point. In an official response to the appeal filed by the Eviatar settlers against the intention to evict them, the Judea and Samaria Attorney General wrote:
The construction of the illegal outpost was carried out during a complex period in which security forces and regional authorities faced significant security challenges, both in the Judea and Samaria and in many other areas. … In addition, the establishment of the illegal outpost contributed to the undermining of the stability in the area, including dozens of significant incidents in the area, which affects the assessment of the security situation in the area, and requires the allocation of many forces diverted from other operational missions.
Indeed, since the establishment of the outpost, the residents of the village of Beita, on whose land the outpost was established, have launched daily protests against the outpost now manned by IDF soldiers. In these protests, 9 Palestinians have been killed by IDF fire so far, and they included throwing stones and fireworks at the soldiers.
It is important to note that according to reports, a compromise agreement with the settlers was made contrary to the position of the defense establishment, which feared a significant escalation in the West Bank, and it seems that this fear is indeed being realized.
The only reason for the establishment of the settlement is the fact that some settlers decided to establish an outpost there and managed to “drive” the system crazy and get the government to agree to their demands. This is not the way to make decisions with far-reaching implications for Israel’s security and its political status.
The Bennett-Lapid government was formed on the basis of the agreement that there is no agreement on settlement policy. It was officially decided on a “status quo” in this area, or as Prime Minister Bennett said during his visit to Washington: “We will not annex territories and establish a Palestinian state.” But in practice, no forum or mechanism has been set up in the government to make decisions on the issue of settlements, and since there is no consensus on the issue – it is hardly discussed in the government. Thus, any minister in the government can do whatever he wants within the powers of his office, and in practice, the government promotes settlements in a way that may ultimately lead to an annexation of the territories and the prevention of the possibility of peace and two states.
Establishing a new settlement, deep in the West Bank, for no security or political reason other than pressure exerted by a marginal minority group, is severe folly. Those in government who support the possibility of two states for two peoples must act to prevent the establishment of the settlement in Evyatar, which is a serious deviation from the principles of the political “status quo” on which the government was established.
Reward for Criminals
“Evyatar” was established illegallye, without permits on land that never belonged to the settlers. Element from the depth of the settler right made fun of the rule of law and created fact on the ground against any government approval. Legalizing this outpost, whether by establishing a yeshiva or by establishing an official settlement, is simply awarding a prize to someone who tramples on the law and moves terror on the government and the military.
Politically, this means that the new government does not want to confront even a small (albeit loud and powerful) minority, which has decided on its own to “drive the system crazy” and establish facts on the ground. The message is that there is no real change in the rules of the game in the territories, and that the settlers in the territories, still have the power to do as they please. In this regard, the words of the Judea and Samaria Attorney General in his letter mentioned above, are best describing the situation:
“Before the end, the commander of the IDF forces in the area wanted to emphasize that your clients [the settlers of Evyatar. P.N.] violated the law in a blatant and serious manner, erected dozens of buildings inhabited by dozens of families in a very short time, and even continued to build buildings and infrastructure in the outpost after a delimitation order was issued which prohibits any construction in the area […]. this is a very blatant and serious conduct, which indicates a lack of good faith and contributes to the violation of public order and the rule of law in the area, and can in no way be reconciled.
Establishing a yeshiva is establishing a settlement
Practically on the ground, there is no real difference between a settlement and an “educational institution” or yeshiva. The designated educational institution includes permanent residences of dozens of students and staff and their families. This means that there will be a settlement for all purposes, that people live in on a regular basis, with all the implications that entails.
Moreover, the establishment of a yeshiva or an educational institution is the way to expedite the establishment of the settlement: the establishment of an educational institution does not require a planning procedure, which usually takes years, because an order was enacted in the Occupied Territories to approve the establishment of educational institutions without a planning process. (Regulations of approval, establishment and licensing exemption for a temporary education structure, 2010).
Establishment of an educational institution does not require long and expensive procedures of construction initiators, recruitment of settler families who will agree to move to live in the new settlement, detailed planning, private investments, etc. until it is established. Instead, for the purpose of establishing an educational institution, smaller sums are required and even without recruiting dozens of families, the settlement can be established based on the students of the educational institution as a group that will populate the settlement.
Finally, the establishment of an educational institution may be perceived by the public as less harmful than the establishment of a settlement, thus reducing opposition to its establishment. In order to establish a yeshiva or educational institution the government does not have to convene, decide and announce the establishment of a new settlement, and formally all that is required is the signature of the Minister of Defense and the settlement will go ahead.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that quite a few of the settlements began as an “educational institution”, and later became settlements for all intents and purposes. Among others, the settlements of Alon Shvut, which began as a yeshiva, Ovnat, which began as a high school with a boarding school, Maskiyot, which began as a pre-military preparatory school, Gva’ot and more.