Left-wing activists march on West Bank outpost in rally against legalization plan

Right-wing demonstrator detained for trying to snatch banner from protester near Evyatar, which is designated a closed military zone

Left-wing activists and lawmakers march near the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar, February 18, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Left-wing activists and lawmakers march near the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar, February 18, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Hundreds of left-wing activists, including several lawmakers, marched toward the evacuated outpost of Evyatar in the West Bank on Friday, demanding the government scrap a planned compromise deal with settlers to legalize the wildcat community.

Police stopped marchers from ascending a hill to Evyatar, which has been declared a closed military zone, though some still attempted to reach the outpost.

“The demonstration is legal, the outposts are not,” said the Peace Now settlement watchdog, one of the organizers of the march.

The activists were instead restricted to protesting at a nearby junction, where a group of right-wing activists also gathered to rally in support of the illegal outpost.

Evyatar was cleared out in late June as part of a compromise agreement, with the houses and roads remaining in place and a detachment of soldiers moving in.

Former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit approved a compromise deal between the government and settlers to legalize the outpost in his final hours in office last month.

The move, which is highly controversial among the ideologically diverse ruling coalition, still requires the final approval of Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Among the lawmakers at the rally was MK Gaby Lasky of the left-wing Meretz party.

“Together with hundreds of Israeli activists, we arrived at the occupied territories to say: Evyatar must be evacuated immediately. Anyone who does not evacuate illegal outposts is giving [settlers] backing. End the occupation!” she tweeted.

“Instead of issuing a closed military area order, the army must issue evacuation orders for all the illegal outposts,” Lasky wrote in a separate tweet.

A right-wing activist was briefly detained by officers for attempting to snatch a banner from a protester, according to police. Meretz MK Mossi Raz said the protester was “assaulted” by officers.

No other serious incidents were reported.

Police said they prepared ahead of time with the military to allow both groups “to hold the protest in a free and safe manner.”

“The early preparation and dialogue with the protest organizers brought the event to a quiet and dignified end,” police said in a statement.

Separately Friday, settler groups said Palestinians destroyed over 250 olive tree saplings at an Israeli-owned farm in the central West Bank.

“The violence of the extreme left and the Arabs is rampant. With the encouragement of left-wing organizations and the backing of senior ministers, Arab rioters set out to vandalize and uproot Jewish property,” said Yisrael Gantz, the chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council.

Israeli settlers and soldiers gather at the wildcat outpost of Evyatar near the West Bank city of Nablus, July 1, 2021. (Oded Balilty/AP)

As part of the June deal, a survey was carried out that reportedly determined part of the land was not owned by Palestinians, clearing 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 under 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 from the neighboring village of Beita have also been holding near-weekly protests for the past few months against the illegal outpost’s establishment on what they say is private Palestinian land. At least eight Palestinians have been killed in those clashes.

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