Settlers to leave Evyatar outpost today

What happened: Today at 4pm local time the Evyatar outpost in the West Bank will be cleared of all Israeli settlers and the army will enter and set up a permanent military presence.

  • Earlier this week the new government and settlers came to an agreement to vacate the outpost voluntarily. All the contents of the buildings will be removed, and the houses will be locked up.
  • The army will enter the outpost and in parallel carry out a survey of the land to ascertain its owners. If the survey determines that the land on which the outpost was built can be designated “state land,” a yeshiva will be built on the site and the state will eventually permit a permanent civilian presence. Its exact nature will be decided by the prime minister, the defence minister and the chairman of the Samaria Regional Council.
  • Speaking after the agreement, Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said: “This arrangement obliges us, on the one hand, to take some difficult steps. That isn’t fair because you can see the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C, and here there’s enforcement, enforcement and enforcement against the Jews in Judea and Samaria. On the other hand, the buildings aren’t going to be razed, the site will be maintained and, immediately after the land’s status has been quickly ascertained in the coming months, a yeshiva will be established on the site. In the future, after all of the legalisation procedures have been completed, a settlement will be established there. What exactly is going to happen? The Israeli government will decide —naturally, in coordination with us.”
  • Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked welcomed the decision by the settlers of Evyatar to leave the outpost voluntarily, calling them “pioneers … who devotedly have shown what Zionism is. Fear not and tremble not. May you have the privilege of continuing to play a role in the development and flourishing of the Land of Israel.”

Context: On 3 May, following the killing of Yehuda Gueta by Palestinian gunmen in a drive-by terrorist attack, a group of settlers established the Evyatar outpost.

  • The outpost is located 1.6 km east of the Tapuah Junction in an area called Jabal Sabih, and sits between the villages of Yatma and Beita. Several attempts have been made in the past to establish an outpost at the site, but the Civil Administration quickly dismantled them.
  • It is believed that this time, the previous government turned a blind eye to the outpost, and its very fast development, in order to leave a potential crisis for the new coalition.
  • Over the past month, local Palestinians have protested to the presence of settlers and established “night-time harassment units,” burned tires, focused laser lights at outpost residents and marched in the area carrying torches. As a result, the army deployed addition troops to the area.
  • Last night, around 450 Palestinians protests outside the outpost. The rioters fired in the air, threw five IEDs, and shot fireworks. The Red Crescent reported that dozens of people had suffered from smoke inhalation and that a few had been injured by rubber bullets.
  • The government’s decision to reach a compromise with the settlers was to avoid destabilising the coalition, despite the fact that the outpost was established illegally (without government approval) according to the Israeli regulations in the West Bank.  The Civil Administration had issued demolition orders in early June.
  • The settlers claim that there is a possibility to legalise the outpost because the land should be considered as “state land”. By adopting the Ottoman Land Law, all non-registered land in the West Bank can be declared “state land” unless it is proven to have been cultivated by Palestinians.
  • There is a possibility that the survey could find that some of the area could be classified as “state land” and other parts of the area as private Palestinian land and therefore could complicate what the government does next.

Looking ahead: The compromise agreement is to provide the government time to ascertain whether the land can be declared as “state land” and subsequently legalised.

  • If the outpost is eventually declared as being on “state land” and the government agrees to a permanent civilian presence on the site, it may set a precedent for the other outposts in the West Bank that were established similarly to Evyatar.
  • Due to the complexities of surveying the area, the yeshiva is unlikely to be built anytime in the near future.

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