Cabinet seeks to legalize outpost where half of homes to be razed

Cabinet seeks to legalize outpost where half of homes to be razed

Proposal will direct Finance Ministry to funnel NIS 60 million for purpose of reparations and temporary neighborhood for evacuated settlers

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

An Israeli flag flies over the remains of a woodhsop in the Netiv Ha'avot outpost after Israeli security forces demolished it on November 29, 2017. (Courtesy: Campaign to save Netiv Ha'avot)
An Israeli flag flies over the remains of a woodhsop in the Netiv Ha'avot outpost after Israeli security forces demolished it on November 29, 2017. (Courtesy: Campaign to save Netiv Ha'avot)

The cabinet will vote on Sunday to begin the process of legalizing the Netiv Ha’avot outpost, where 15 homes are slated for demolition in less than two weeks.

Published Friday by the cabinet secretary, the proposal will not cover the houses that the High Court of Justice ruled need be razed by March 6.

However, residents intend to utilize the legalization of the remainder of the outpost where over 20 other families live to advance the construction of 350 more homes, thereby expanding the neighborhood in the Elazar settlement ten-fold.

If adopted, the proposal will direct Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to immediately prepare a plan to legalize the outpost, in coordination with the relevant legal and planning bodies.

A special representative will be appointed to update the cabinet on the legalization process.

The proposal also directs the Finance Ministry to funnel nearly NIS 60 million ($17.2 million) to the Gush Etzion Regional Council — the central West Bank outpost’s representative municipal body.

Nearly half of those funds — NIS 29 million ($8.31 million) will go toward building a temporary neighborhood for the 15 families until permanent homes are built for them within the settlement.

While the plan for the hilltop community has already been approved for construction, the cabinet proposal will ensure that it has the funds to be actualized.

Border Police officers guard near tractors during preparations for the evacuation and demolition of the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost on February 7, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

An additional NIS 24 million ($6.88 million) will be given to the residents as reparations for the demolished illegally-built homes; and NIS 2.25 million ($644,580) will cover the residents’ stay in guest houses for three months, if the temporary neighborhood is not completed in time for the demolition.

The proposal states that the transfer of the funds will be dependent on the High Court’s response to a pair of petitions related to the outpost.

The first was submitted earlier this year by the Peace Now settlement watchdog on behalf of a group of Palestinians claiming ownership of the land on which the temporary community is slated to be built.

The second petition was submitted on Tuesday by the state itself and requests that the March 6 demolition be delayed by three months to provide time for the construction of the temporary caravan community.

In addition, the delay would allow for the advancement of another plan that would grant post-facto building permits to seven of the 15 homes slated for demolition on the grounds that they sit only marginally on land that does not belong to the state.

If adopted, the plan would see the “problematic parts” of those seven homes sawed off, while the rest of the structures would be allowed to remain standing. This would mean that only eight homes would require complete demolition by security forces.

Peace Now activists protest in front of the Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood in favor of the outpost’s court ordered demolition on February 15, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

However, the plan faces significant legal hurdles given that the High Court has already rejected a similar appeal by residents to remove parts from six of the homes.

The state’s High Court petition was also accompanied by a letter signed by each of the families pledging “to evacuate the homes without resistance, without violence, and refrain from bringing demonstrators” into their homes.

While they may not enter the homes themselves, hundreds of youths are still expected to descend on Netiv Ha’avot on the day of the evacuation.

Last month, residents hosted some 1,000 youth for the Sabbath in an effort to recruit support ahead of the March razing. A staple at past demolitions of Israeli settlements, the younger protesters’ presence at such operations has frequently led to clashes with troops.

It was a September 2016 High Court ruling that initially sanctioned the demolition after the legal body accepted the petition of a group of Palestinians who argued the homes had been partially built illegally on their land.

The ruling called for the demolition of 17 structures in total. The two non-residential ones — a woodshop and a war memorial for slain IDF soldiers — were demolished last year.

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