Government scrambles to ease pain of illegal outpost evacuation

Coalition leaders said to be angling to approve NIS 20 million in compensation for 15 families at Netiv Ha’avot, as Jewish Home ministers promise to delay razing

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Netiv Ha'avot residents protest the High Court decision to demolish 17 structures of their outpost, demonstrating outside the Knesset on July 17, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Netiv Ha'avot residents protest the High Court decision to demolish 17 structures of their outpost, demonstrating outside the Knesset on July 17, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

With just 15 days left before the High Court-ordered demolition of the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost, the government has been preparing to provide aid for the residents slated to be evacuated from their West Bank homes.

Coalition leaders were preparing to approve NIS 20 million ($5.68 million) in compensation for the 15 families slated to lose their homes on March 6, according to the Haaretz daily.

On Sunday, the residents met with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — both of the national religious Jewish Home party — who vowed to propose a resolution to delay the demolition by three months in order to provide an alternative housing solution for the families.

The pair cited “humanitarian reasons” requiring the adoption of a proposal that would allow the families to immediately move into a new home following the evacuation, if it in fact takes place.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (second from L) meet with residents of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost slated for demolition on February 18, 2018. (Courtesy of Netiv Ha’avot residents)

The pledge was likely in response to a ruling by the attorney general last week that permitted the residents to submit a request to delay the court-ordered evacuation.

Bennett and Shaked also told residents that the cabinet was planning to advance a parallel resolution to legalize the outpost, though such a plan would likely face significant legal hurdles due to a September 2016 High Court ruling ordering the demolition of the homes, which has since been upheld several times.

For their part, the residents praised the Jewish Home ministers for taking the lead in reaching a solution for the outpost, which lies in the Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem. However, the families clarified in a Sunday statement, “we are no longer satisfied with promises, and will not rest until we see actions on the ground.”

They have since announced the establishment of a protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office, in which they will demand an immediate solution to prevent the evacuation as well as the construction of 350 homes in the Etzion bloc. The residents referred to the latter demand as a “proper Zionist response to the extreme leftist elements bringing about the destruction of homes.”

An aerial photograph of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost. The areas colored in blue were deemed by the High Court to be state land. The 17 structures that stand on the non-shaded areas have been sanctioned for demolishment. (Courtesy)

“We will build a new neighborhood with hundreds of new homes and thus strengthen the settlement in Judea and Samaria,” they said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog slammed news of a compensation plan for the residents, calling it “political bribery for building offenders.”

“The residents of Nativ Ha’avot stole land, took control of it, and built their homes on it without permission from any official source. This is not according to us, but rather according to the state, which issued demolition orders for all the structures. Now they are receiving very generous financial compensation from the same state,” the groups’s settlement watch team director, Shabtay Bendet, tweeted Monday.

Last week, the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing West Bank construction granted final approval for 15 temporary homes for the families whose homes are set to be razed on March 6.

One of the homes set to be demolished in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost in Gush Etzion, September 2, 2016. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The temporary homes will be placed adjacent to the nearby Alon Shvut settlement, and will be allowed to stand for three years until a more permanent solution is reached for the 15 families.

The High Court of Justice ordered the homes — considered a neighborhood of the Elazar settlement — razed after accepting the petition of a group of Palestinians who argued the homes had been partially built illegally on their land.

The approval of the plan came on top of an additional legal effort by the state to minimize the damage of the looming demolition. In January, the Defense Ministry body authorized a package of preliminary building permits for seven of the 15 homes sanctioned for demolition.

The latter plan represented a last-ditch attempt by the Defense Ministry to save a majority of the homes after the High Court rejected a compromise proposed by the residents to cut off the “problematic parts” of six homes that only jut onto private Palestinian land by a matter of meters.

The proposal has yet to receive final approval and still faces a number of legal hurdles.

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