Ramat Gilad - Daniel Bar-On
Ramat Gilad. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The government will for the first time legalize a settlement outpost that it had no involvement in creating, under a deal reached by Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin and residents of the unauthorized outpost of Ramat Gilad.

The agreement also calls for relocating part of the outpost, which is located near the settlement of Karnei Shomron northeast of Tel Aviv.

Ramat Gilad was established in 2001 after Gilad Zar, a security coordinator for the Samaria Regional Council, was killed in a terrorist attack. According to the Israel Defense Forces' Civil Administration for the West Bank, a portion of the outpost was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

But unlike most outposts, which were established with some involvement on the part of various government agencies, Ramat Gilad was the private initiative of a single individual, Zar's father, Moshe, in memory of his son. The elder Zar claims to have purchased the Palestinian land.

In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed that the portion of the outpost on privately-owned land, as opposed to state-owned land, should be demolished by the end of this month. As the deadline approached, residents of the outpost began negotiating with Begin over the voluntary evacuation of that part of Ramat Gilad.

Under the agreement they recently reached, nine residential trailers on the privately-owned land will be moved several dozen meters, to state-owned land, by March 1, 2012. Any buildings on the privately-owned land that aren't moved will be demolished.

The compromise also calls for the Civil Administration to examine the status of the land on which two other trailers are located, and if that land is also found to be privately owned, those two trailers will be relocated as well.

Finally, it requires the state to legalize the rest of the outpost. However, no time frame for that step was set, and it could take years.

Meanwhile, Moshe Zar has petitioned the Jerusalem District Court for a ruling that he, rather than a Palestinian, is the rightful owner of the private land. That case is still in its early stages.

From the standpoint of the West Bank settlers, the agreement struck with Begin is a major political achievement. Until now, they have only demanded that the state legalize neighborhoods and outposts that government agencies had a hand in building, such as the Yovel neighborhood in Eli and the Harsha outpost. But the new agreement goes beyond that by authorizing an outpost that the government had no hand in establishing.

Next on the agenda is the Migron outpost, which has been slated for demolition by the end of March on orders of the High Court of Justice. So far, that outpost's residents have refused any compromise. The state has also committed to demolishing some structures in Beit El in April and May.