Israel Set to Legalize West Bank Outpost, Taking Over Private Palestinian Land

The decision to grant retroactive approval to Netiv Ha’avot, approved by Defense Minister Ya'alon, marks the largest appropriation of West Bank land in years.

Dror Etkes

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has given the state the green light to retroactively legalize the Netiv Ha’avot outpost in Gush Etzion, declaring 984 dunams around the outpost state land in what is the largest appropriation of territory in the West Bank in many years.

The Netiv Ha’avot outpost, adjacent to the settlements of Elazar and Alon Shvut, was built without proper authorization in 2001 and was the subject of two High Court of Justice petitions. In the first, in 2002, Palestinians sought the demolition of the outpost, which they said was built on their privately-owned land.

The court ordered the formation of a government committee to examine the ownership issue, but the government did not do so. In 2008, Peace Now filed a second petition seeking demolition of the outpost. The state then claimed that a new committee would be formed to examine the land ownership issue. In October 2010, Justice Edmond Levy rejected the Peace Now petition because the land survey had not yet been completed.

However, the survey, which was carried out a month later - and which the Civil Administration tried to hide - indicated that 60 percent of the outpost was built on privately-owned Palestinian farmland.

Last week, heads of nearby Palestinian villages were informed of the state’s plans to appropriate the land, and given 45 days to appeal the decision.

The Netiv Ha’avot outpost is home to some 50 families, including Ze’ev Hever (Zambish), secretary of Amana, the organization that is the driving force behind all the illegal outposts.

The state’s planned appropriation of land far exceeds the size of the Netiv Ha’avot, which is built on just a few dozen dunams. The decision to convert nearly 1,000 dunams (1 square kilometer) into state land will enable hundreds of housing units to be built in neighboring Elazar and Alon Shvut, turning them into towns with thousands of residents, and will pave the way for settlers in Netiv Ha’avot to submit their own building plans. Within this area lie enclaves of private Palestinian land which will become trapped within the settler real estate.

“Declarations of state land became rare after the army declared close to a million dunams state land in the 1980s and 1990s, enough to expand the settlements for the coming century,” said Dror Etkes, who monitors settlement policy. “The present declaration is a faithful reflection of the Netanyahu government’s policy and meant to extinguish the last embers of the negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Alex Levac