NETIV HA’AVOT, West Bank — Some 2,000 people rallied Monday evening against the planned razing of 15 homes in the West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot in a futile attempt to stave off the demolition, set for dawn Tuesday.
Speakers at the rally inside the outpost — a neighborhood of the Elazar settlement south of Jerusalem — included residents, settler leaders, and lawmakers from the pro-settlement Jewish Home party.
One after the other, they railed against the High Court of Justice for ordering the razing of the homes.
Education Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett accused the High Court of “absurdly” violating the rights of Israeli settlers.
“I have no other word [to describe the situation] except absurd … I do not remember a legal action with so little logic [as this one],” Bennett told the crowd.
He claimed that Israel’s constitutional court regularly acts to protect the interests of left-wing groups, but said that when it comes to the rights of settlers, “the court is passive all of the sudden.”
He vowed that Netiv Ha’avot would grow exponentially thanks to a February cabinet decision to begin the process of legalizing the outpost. Residents plan on utilizing the authorization of an official building plan to advance the construction of 350 more homes in the neighborhood.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also a member of the Jewish Home, told protesters that the government was working to advance the legalization of all outposts in the West Bank and that Israel’s settlement movement would emerge stronger after the evacuation of the outpost.
“We have changed the discourse from how we evacuate to how we legalize,” she said. “From this difficult and unnecessary evacuation, we will be strengthened and grow.”
Unlike other recent evacuations in Amona and Ofra, which were marked by large and sometimes violent demonstrations by extremist youth, Netiv Ha’avot residents have urged that any protest Tuesday remain peaceful.
The outpost was established in 2001 as an extended neighborhood of Elazar in the Etzion settlement bloc. 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 land not belonging to the state and ordered that they be demolished by March 8, 2018.
Two non-residential structures — a small wood shop and a monument for two IDF soldiers killed fighting in Lebanon, were demolished last year.
The remaining 15 homes were slated to be razed last March, but the High Court granted a three month delay to arrange temporary housing for the soon-to-be evicted residents.