Akiva Eldar West Bank Outsposts Are Growing 'Under the State's Nose'

If the state’s claim that it is taking care of illegal building in outposts sounds familiar, it’s because it’s just the same old pabulum they’ve fed us before.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

"It is untenable that the state, which is equipped with surveillance apparatus, does not know what is happening right under its nose." This crushing line is documented at the Supreme Court and credited to its President Dorit Beinisch.

Israeli security forces scuffling with Jewish settlers at the unauthorized Migron outpost, in April 2010.Credit: Archive

The president's harsh words referred to a new road going to the Hayovel outpost, which was paved on privately owned Palestinian land. Beinisch would do well to find out what is happening under the state's nose at other outposts as well.

For example she could look at the largest of them, Migron, which is in the jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin regional council. This is one of the 24 outposts the government of Israel promised the whole world it would "dismantle immediately." That was more than seven years ago. Remember the road map?

More than three years ago, following a petition to the High Court of Justice by Peace Now, the state confirmed that the outpost was situated on privately owned Palestinian land. Over a year ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed the court he had reached a compromise agreement with the Yesha settler council to the effect that the 45 families living in Migron would be transferred within two years to a community to be built for them on the outskirts of the settlement of Adam.

Credit: Eran Wolkowski

The Migron people are against the agreement and have taken to acting to get their point across. And as Beinisch says - right under the state's nose, and henceforth, also right under the nose of the president of the Supreme Court.

Dror Etkes, who was the Peace Now settlements coordinator at the time the petition was filed, has been persistently following the development of the outpost. Last week he documented with his camera a new fence, surrounding six to seven dunams of land in an area the settlers had previously started to prepare for the construction of permanent housing.

Etkes also identified a new road connecting the outpost to the fenced-in area. This documentation joins other actions that do not testify to any plans to move elsewhere: Since the petition an additional permanent structure has been built, a horse ranch has been established, a new road has been paved, about a dozen pre-fab structures (caravans ) have been put in place and others have been enlarged.

"The state is continuing to mock the High Court of Justice through pointless procrastination," says Etkes. "The problem of Migron is not going to disappear on its own."

According to the Civil Administration, a demolition order has been issued for the fence and it will be implemented in the near future. It has also informed Haaretz that the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration have demolished a number of structures that were built illegally and have confiscated a truck. Moreover, a stop work order has been issued for a wooden cabin, which was under construction outside the fence in violation of the freeze order and without a permit.

The response sounded too familiar to me. And indeed, a quick search through the records found a similar letter from the Civil Administration. It states: "As is known, the Migron outpost is defined in its entirely as an illegal outpost - It should be noted that all the structures in the outpost have been served stop work orders and most of them demolition orders as well." The date: October 19, 2005.

On second thought, why should we complain about the outpost when Mateh Binyamin council head Avi Roeh announces in a bulletin to inhabitants that in advance of the coming school year he has made "the decision not to wait for the variance permits from the freeze order and to start carrying out the earthworks for the construction of new school buildings."

Roeh has learned that the state's nose is so long it hides what is happening right under it.

And perhaps in the end the settlers are right. In a statement (from written notes ) he made at the end of his last meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, United States President Barack Obama spoke about "curbing" construction in the settlements (and not freezing it ).

The forbidden neighborhood

In mid-May, during the course of the weekly demonstrations against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the police prohibited holding a protest vigil in the compound. That was two days after Jerusalem Day, during which hundreds of settlers marched through unhindered.

A number of the peace activists sat down in the road and others stood opposite the police barriers. The security people evacuated them by force and arrested "the leaders," as they said. Twelve demonstrators spent Shabbat under arrest after refusing to sign release conditions that included staying away from Sheikh Jarrah for 14 days. They claimed the police were using the tool to suppress a legitimate protest.

The activists hoped to find succor in court. At the end of May, the 10 demonstrators who refused to sign the release conditions reported to the chambers of Judge Eilata Ziskind at the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem. This time the police asked to keep them from Sheikh Jarrah for three months.

They got five. The judge forbade the activists from entering the disputed area for a period of five months.

And that is not all - she also prohibited them from taking part, during that entire period, in any procession or demonstration anywhere in Israel "connected to the events in Sheikh Jarrah," which has not received a permit.

Violation of this condition, stressed Ziskind, will constitute a violation of their release on bail.

District Court Judge Noam Solberg reduced the period to three months but left the bail conditions standing.

Last Friday most of the members of the group ordered to stay away from Sheikh Jarrah participated in the demonstration in Silwan in East Jerusalem against Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to demolish 22 houses there. They made sure not to wave placards hinting at Sheikh Jarrah and were careful about not uttering the name of the forbidden neighborhood. Who knows, some policeman might arrest them for violating the conditions of their bail.



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