Illegal outpost residents ask court to save parts of homes set to be razed

Settlers from Netiv Ha’avot offer to cut off ‘problematic parts’ of six of the homes found to have been only partially built on private Palestinian land

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

View of homes in the Netiv Ha'avot outpost in the Etzion Bloc. September 2, 2016. (Gerhson Elinson/Flash90)
View of homes in the Netiv Ha'avot outpost in the Etzion Bloc. September 2, 2016. (Gerhson Elinson/Flash90)

Residents of the illegal settlement outpost of Netiv Ha’avot in Gush Etzion filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Thursday in an effort to save a portion of 15 homes there slated to be demolished in March.

While none of the homes in the outpost, which forms a neighborhood in the Elazar settlement, sits entirely on private Palestinian land, six of them do so partially, several by a matter of feet.

In their petition, the residents claim that those six houses need not be razed. Instead, they presented an alternative solution, offering to demolish only the “problematic parts” of the homes that were found to have crossed over onto private Palestinian land; thereby allowing the remainder of those buildings to stay intact.

At the same time, they asserted that they are still demanding that the government find a solution that would legalize the entirety of the neighborhood slated to be demolished in March 2018.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that his office is preparing to evacuate the homes in accordance with the High Court decision. However, it is also looking to give the outpost residents an alternative plot of land in a “nearby area” which will allow their children to “remain in the same school system.”

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)

Netiv Ha’avot was established in 2001 as an extended neighborhood of the Elazar settlement southwest of Bethlehem. Residents of the nearby village of al-Khader along with the Peace Now settlement watchdog petitioned the High Court of Justice, claiming Palestinian ownership of the land on which the outpost is built.

In September 2016, the court ruled that 17 buildings in the neighborhood had in fact been constructed on private Palestinian land and ordered that they be demolished by a year and a half later, on March 8, 2018.

Among the 17 structures are a small wood shop as well as a monument for two IDF soldiers killed fighting in Lebanon. The remaining 15 buildings are homes belonging to residents of the neighborhood.

While the al-Khader residents had sought to have the entire outpost demolished under the pretext that it was originally theirs, the High Court only deemed two slivers of land in the middle of the neighborhood to be of Palestinian ownership. The rest of the outpost was retroactively designated as state land.

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