Hell No, We Won't Go,' Vow Settlers, but for Now They Choose Legal Challenges

For a few short hours, until the list of settlement outposts to be cleared immediately was released, Nofei Nehemia was the only inhabited outpost earmarked for evacuation.

For a few short hours, until the list of settlement outposts to be cleared immediately was released, Nofei Nehemia was the only inhabited outpost earmarked for evacuation.

Elad Levsky, one of the outpost's veteran settlers and a few friends who stayed there yesterday, refused to speak to journalists, citing "bad experience" with the media.

However they said their resistance to any evacuation would be "within the democratic rules of the game," with no beating soldiers or swearing at them.

Nofei Nehemia is an outpost of the settlement Rehelim - itself an illegal outpost for many years. It was erected by singles and young families from the former Soviet Union and was evacuated for the first time when Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was defense minister. Four months ago it was rebuilt.

The settlers' Yesha Council said the outpost was half legal, for it had been agreed with Ben-Eliezer that it would be rebuilt after its planning procedures were set in motion.

But these understandings, if any existed, were not acceptable to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who ordered the outpost's evacuation. Yesterday there were 10 mobile homes in Nofei Nehemia.

Altogether 10 people - a few families, singles and two children - live there. The settlers see the outpost as the territorial link between Ariel and the settlement bloc of Rehelim, Ma'aleh Levona, Eli and Shvut Rahel.

South of Rehelim there are several outposts - Givat Harel, Givat Haroeh, Mahazei Shiloh, Ahia, Esh Kodesh and Adei Ad. Those erected after March 2001 are earmarked for evacuation. The earlier ones will remain standing for the time being.

These outposts are spread over 25 thousand dunams of state land. The outpost inhabitants regard themselves as latter-day keepers of state land. The Israeli establishment cooperated with them almost completely, from the Mekorot water company and Electric Corporation to the World Zionist Organization's Settlements Department, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces.

Nofei Nehemia's mother settlement, Rehelim, was erected in December 1991 in response to the murder of Yitzhak Rofeh and Rahela Druck and served as the model for many other outposts.

Immediately after the funeral the women from settlements in the area staked a claim there. A few weeks of obstinate struggle against the army led to an agreement to set up a military outpost there, as well as a memorial vigil for the murdered settlers, consisting of two tents and an electric generator. In time the memorial turned into "Midreshet Yitzhak" (Yitzhak college), hosting youth groups and adults from all over the country.

At first the "college" people were forbidden to stay the night at the outpost and the authorities forbade taking building materials to the outpost or building any permanent structure there. After a long "freeze," during which women from the area took turns inhabiting the site, Rehelim was finally recognized in 1999 as a civilian settlement. Three years later the first permanent neighborhood, consisting of 14 housing units built by the Housing Ministry, was inaugurated.

Nofei Nehemia settlers hoped to follow the Rehelim model and prepared to live in difficult conditions until they received official recognition. Now their second evacuation, slated for last night, apparently put an end to their dream.

Another inhabited outpost earmarked for evacuation is Shavei Shomron West, called by its residents Mizpeh Rehavam, after Rehavam Zeevi. This outpost is adjacent to the Shavei Shomron settlement's fence, and is surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

A stone structure was built in the outpost in 1992 and a single caravan has been standing there since 1999. Five more caravans were brought there within the last six months.

This outpost was built by three settlers who eventually went their separate ways. One went on to erect an outpost in the Yitzhar area, the other decided to reorganize the nucleus of settlers for the West Bank settlement Sa-Nur, which had been abandoned. The third remained in the Rehavam outpost and was later joined by a few singles and families.

Their plan is to build an additional quarter to Shavei Shomron.

Meik Kihan, secretariat chairman of Shavei Shomron, said an order to evacuate the Shavei Shomron West outpost would be patently illegal. "We will resist it. We won't take it lying down," he said. He said the outpost was a neighborhood of Shavei Shomron to all intents and purposes and even Ben-Eliezer recognized it as such.

Shavei Shomron settlers yesterday took the legal option in a bid to delay evacuation. If this fails, the soldiers who come to evacuate it can expect a confrontation with the settlers and their supporters.