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Labor, Meretz warn authorizing illegal outpost Evyatar threatens coalition

Meretz MK Mossi Raz vows to torpedo new settlement, ‘even if it means toppling the government,’ while coalition chairwoman Silman hails AG-brokered compromise deal

The West Bank outpost of Evyatar, on July 5, 2021. (Flash90)
The West Bank outpost of Evyatar, on July 5, 2021. (Flash90)

The coalition’s Labor and Meretz parties reacted angrily on Wednesday to the apparent progress in plans to retroactively authorize the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar.

News broke Wednesday morning that former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit had approved a compromise deal between the government and settlers to legalize Evyatar in his final hours in office on Tuesday. The move, which is hotly controversial among the ideologically diverse government coalition, still requires the final approval of Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

In a statement, Labor called the decision “destructive.”

“Our government must deal with steeply rising prices and urgent economic aid to citizens,” the party said. “Instead, a small number of government members are choosing to advance illegal outposts that hurt Israel and Israeli security.”

“Those who want a stable and functioning coalition should act according to the agreements,” it added, singling out Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked for criticism.

Meretz said it will oppose “any attempt to establish new settlements,” and that this issue is “at the root of the agreement to form the government.” The party said legalizing new settlements “is the last thing this country needs.”

Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz, pictured at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Mossi Raz said that he will not be able to swallow such a move, and “it is one step too far.” Raz said that “if I can topple Evyatar, I will do it, even if it means toppling the government.”

Raz told Army Radio that when it comes to “the occupied territories, this is the most right-wing government in the history of Israel,” claiming that even former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not have authorized Evyatar.

Yamina MK Idit Silman, the coalition chairwoman, welcomed the decision and criticized those voicing opposition.

Approval of the compromise agreement “is significant and happy news for the entire right wing,” said Silman. “Despite the shouts, the denials, the fake news and the lies — once again the Bennett government has proved that it has the power to act wisely, efficiently and in accordance with the provisions of the law.”

Silman said she wanted to “send a message to all those who oppose and resent” the decision. “It is not possible to accept the decisions of legal entities only when they correspond with your worldview. The law should be respected. Period.”

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, said Mandelblit’s decision was “correct and fair” and that the agreement should be honored.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli outpost of Evyatar in the village of Beita in the West Bank, on August 6, 2021. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP)

Meanwhile, the mostly Arab opposition Joint List party said that “authorization for Evyatar spits in the face of all who want peace and democracy.”

Under the terms of the agreement reached in late June, the settlers left the outpost peacefully and the area became a closed military zone, with the houses and roads remaining in place and a detachment of soldiers moving in.

As part of the deal, a survey was carried out that reportedly determined that part of the land was not owned by Palestinians, paving the way for the establishment of a yeshiva and for some settler families to return. The return of settlers to Evyatar still requires a formal announcement that the site will be approved, as well as a grace period during which objections can be filed.

In August, the High Court rejected a petition lodged by Palestinians against the deal. The justices ruled that the petitioners’ claims to own the land were “speculative” and that the land survey at the time was ongoing and incomplete.

The settlers named the outpost Evyatar after Evyatar Borovsky, who was murdered in a stabbing attack at Tapuah Junction by a Palestinian in 2013.

Several dozen settler families moved to the site, which has had previous incarnations as outposts that were razed by Israeli authorities, and established the yeshiva. The deal last summer according to which the settlers left came just after the country’s fragile government was formed and appeared to have been struck as a way to avoid the media spectacle of troops forcibly dragging away Israeli families.

Palestinians in nearby villages say the outpost was built on their land and fear it will grow and merge with larger settlements nearby. Before the settlers left, Palestinians held near-daily protests that led to violent clashes with Israeli troops.

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