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Compromise reached to prevent razing of illegal West Bank outpost

Evyatar residents accept deal with government to vacate the site in favor of a yeshiva; authorities to examine whether settlement can be legalized

Israeli settlers march with flags at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar on June 21, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli settlers march with flags at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar on June 21, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

A compromise deal was reached to prevent the razing of an illegal West Bank outpost that would see some parts of the settler site remain in place, the Samaria Regional Council announced Monday.

A statement from the council said residents of the Evyatar outpost overwhelmingly approved the deal with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, claiming it had been welcomed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The deal will see the state reconsider the status of the outpost’s land with a view to making it legal for a future settlement, after “it was proved that Evyatar is not situated on private land,” the statement claimed.

The Samaria Regional Council said that under the deal, Evyatar’s residents will leave but its structures won’t be demolished, with the Israel Defense Forces instead immediately transforming the outpost into a makeshift army base. In some six weeks, a new yeshiva will be established there.

Meanwhile, authorities will examine the legal status of the land. Should the land eventually be approved for use by the settlers, they would be able to move back to the community, according to the statement.

“This is a strategic plan… ultimately our main mission is to build the Land of Israel and to maintain unity among the people of Israel,” Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar on June 27, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

There was no confirmation of the terms of the deal from Bennett, Gantz or Shaked.

Bennett, who leads the right-wing Yamina party, was reported Sunday to be eager to avoid the spectacle of the outpost being removed, given the current political situation in which the coalition is struggling to maintain a majority in the Knesset.

Lawmakers from the predominantly Arab Joint List party slammed the proposal as “legitimizing settlement and crime.”

“Instead of homes, this hill will in several weeks house a yeshiva, meaning dozens of young settlers who will only cause more violence, abuse and theft,” MK Aida Touma-Sliman charged in a statement.

“Responsibility for this settlement crime lies with all the partners in the coalition,” she said. The coalition includes the Islamist Ra’am party.

Fellow Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said the proposal “is a deception, not a compromise.”

“A shameful move that continues the war crime and theft of Palestinian lands,” Tibi said in a statement.

Israeli settlers pray in a synagogue at the outpost of Eviatar in the northern West Bank, June 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Samaria Regional Council’s announcement of a compromise came a week after the military rejected an appeal from settlers against razing the outpost, allowing the demolition to take place as of midnight Sunday.

Residents at the outpost had urged right-wing activists to flood to the site to prevent its structures from being taken down. The residents said in a statement that they set up a tent city surrounding the outpost structures to prevent their expected evacuation.

Local Palestinian residents say they had historically worked the land on which the outpost was built, but that the army has recently prevented them from reaching the area. The Civil Administration, an Israeli military body that manages Palestinian civilian affairs — including West Bank land registration — said it has not determined to whom the land belongs. According to West Bank property laws, uncultivated land can revert to public ownership.

The outpost has grown quickly over the last two months, swelling to roughly 50 buildings for dozens of families. Its Facebook page boasts that Evyatar prevents contiguity between the surrounding Palestinian villages while connecting the Israeli settlement of Tapuah to the Za’atara Junction and Migdalim settlement.

Palestinians protest against the Evyatar outpost in the nearby village of Beta, in the northern West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The area around Evyatar has seen repeated clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in recent weeks following the reestablishment of the outpost. Evyatar has already been razed several times, since it was built in 2013, after the murder of Yitzhar resident Evyatar Borovsky in a stabbing attack at the Tapuah Junction.

Palestinians near the adjacent Beita have hurled stones at troops and burned swaths of land, while Israeli soldiers have responded with riot dispersal munitions and in some cases, live bullets. In recent weeks, four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the clashes.

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