Settlers Strike Secret Deal With Ya’alon to Save Outpost Homes

Illegal mobile homes moved to another illegal outpost after minister promises settlers they would be safe from demolition.

Following pressure from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the Amana settlement movement has moved four mobile homes placed illegally on private Palestinian land a few hundred meters away – into a settlement outpost that is also illegal.

According to information obtained by Haaretz, settlers agreed to move the homes only after Ya’alon promised they would be safe from demolition in the new location.

Amana, in 2012, paved an access road to the Sde Boaz outpost in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, and near the same time placed four mobile homes at site away from the center of Sde Boaz.

The Palestinian owners of the land petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding the state enforce demolition orders that had been issued against the structures. Last March, the state said it planned to implement the demolition orders within four months. Those four months turned into a year, during which Ya’alon intensively lobbied Amana to move the mobile homes.

Two weeks ago, trucks arrived and loaded up the mobile homes and moved them to Sde Boaz, where none of the mobile homes have legal permits either.

Haaretz has learned that the head of Amana, Ze’ev Hever, and Ya’alon struck a deal that if the mobile homes would be moved into Sde Boaz, they would not be demolished.

A senior military official told Haaretz that the residents of the mobile homes “evacuated on their own, after it was made clear to them that if they didn’t, they would be removed.”

He denied the existence of a deal between Ya’alon and Amana but said the government is seeking to legalize Sde Boaz. With the entire outpost facing recognition, the settlers who placed the four mobile homes will be immune from charges of illegal construction.

Police are also investigating suspicions that the settlers violated an interim injunction and lied in an affidavit. Immediately after the Palestinians petition the High Court over the four mobile homes, the Gush Etzion Regional Council issued an affidavit stating that the homes were occupied, in order to block an injunction against settlers moving in.

However, left-wing activist Dror Etkes who was following construction in the area documented that the buildings were empty. Etkes filed a police complaint, but police close the case after 12 days citing a lack of criminal culpability. Following a High Court hearing in October, the prosecution decided to reopen the case. In addition, a criminal investigation was opened into the construction itself, but it was closed for lack of evidence. The justices also ordered an investigation into a suspected violation of an interim injunction forbidding any change in the prevailing situation, after a Civil Administration patrol found two new pergolas had been built at the site.

“Once again we see that in the land of bluff and shady deals, there’s no problem moving mobile homes from one illegal place to another illegal place,” Etkes said. “The settlers can count on the defense minister, who owes his job to their representatives on the Likud Central Committee, to do everything to legalize the new land theft through some legal pretense, that will undoubtedly get the blessing of the attorney general.”

The Sde Boaz outpost near the Neve Daniel settlement in Gush Etzion.
Michael Fattal