Residents of Illegal West Bank Outpost of Evyatar Brace for Eviction

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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The Evyatar outpost, on Sunday
The Evyatar outpost, on SundayCredit: Amir Levy
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

Residents of the unauthorized West Bank outpost Evyatar are preparing to be removed from the site as an eviction order is due to take effect Sunday at 11 P.M. The threat of eviction comes amid reports of a compromise that would require the residents to leave voluntarily but would allow them to return later if a reexamination of the status of the land supports their right to be there.

The compromise, which was first reported by Kan Channel 11 public television, would call for a military base or educational institution at Evyatar in the interim. Defense Minister Benny Gantz refused to comment on the claim that he is involved in advancing the plan.

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Gantz issued a statement on Sunday evening saying that in recent days, he has been working on an agreement with the settlers to leave the outpost, whose construction began in May. “The issue will be handled in the most sensitive and determined manner possible,” he said.

Last week, the head of the army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, rejected objections filed by the residents of Evyatar to the eviction order. The outpost was built on land belonging to three Palestinian villages following the killing of an Israeli, Yehuda Guetta, at the Tapuah junction in the West Bank in a shooting attack.

The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank did not respond to questions from Haaretz regarding the status of the land, saying that the issue was still being examined. In any event, the land has not been declared government land.

Shas lawmakers at the Evyatar outpost on Sunday morningCredit: Amir Levy

Residents of Evyatar appealed to the public to come to the site and sleep in tents there overnight on Sunday. Outpost spokesman Zvi Sukkot said they had no intention of holing themselves up in buildings there, and that the goal of asking the public to come to the site was to stage a protest there. Sukkot said the residents expect thousands to show up, particularly high school students who are currently on summer vacation.

The site had previously been a military base that was established pursuant to a confiscation order. The fact that such an order was necessary would be an indication that the site had been privately owned Palestinian land. Aerial photos released by anti-settlement activist Dror Etkes purportedly show that before the base was constructed there, the land had been cultivated for farming, but the outpost residents say that they have photographs of their own from the past decade that show no cultivation of the land there.

Earlier in the day Sunday Shas party leader Arye Dery, along with other members of the Shas Knesset faction, visited the outpost. Dery then appealed to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Gantz to convene the security cabinet to consider the future of Evyatar. In a letter issued in the afternoon, Gantz replied that “this doesn’t involve the eviction of an orderly community” but rather a group of people who during last month’s war with Hamas in Gaza illegally entered the site “without any approval by authorized officials, and the site is due to be evacuated.” Gantz added that he is involved in working out an agreement with the outpost residents for their consent to leave.

About 2,000 police and Border Police officers have carried out drills rehearsing the evacuation, including a scenario in which the residents put up substantial resistance. The Israeli Civil Administration and the army were also due to take part in any such operation, in advance of which it would be expected that access roads to the site would be closed.

Last week, three Knesset members from parties represented in the new coalition government visited Evyatar. Nir Orbach of Prime Minister Bennett’s Yamina party toured the site and met with the residents. Meretz Knesset members Gaby Lasky and Mossi Raz, along with members of the Breaking the Silence organization, came to protest the presence of the settlers. They displayed pictures of the four Palestinians who were killed in protests and clashed with the army over the outpost.

The Evyatar outpost, two weeks ago

The Peace Now organization, which opposes the settlement enterprise, said that Evyatar was established by lawbreakers who “cynically exploited” Yehuda Guetta’s “despicable death during sensitive security timing.”

“It should be evacuated now. Any other arrangement rewards … a small and extreme minority that is sabotaging any path in the prospect for peace,” the group said, adding that it is unacceptable for Israeli policy to be decided by settlement leaders rather than the government and Knesset. “The unity government must not surrender to the dictates of marginal groups that create facts on the ground.”

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