Israeli Army Says New West Bank Outpost 'A Blatant Violation of the Law'

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The Evyatar outpost in the West Bank, last month.
The Evyatar outpost in the West Bank, last month.Credit: Hadas Parush

The head of the Israeli military's Central Command rejected on Sunday an appeal by the residents of the unauthorized Evyatar outpost against his order to expel them from the West Bank settlement.

The residents of Evyatar submitted their appeal to Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai on Thursday, alongside a building plan, with the intent of preventing their expulsion. The deputy legal adviser for the Judea and Samaria region, Lt. Col. Lahat Shemesh, said the appeal was denied because the outpost was built illegally, as were the dozens of buildings there.

Shemesh added that the establishment of the outpost has destabilized the security of the area, which has manifested in part in "dozens of major disturbances.” This is "something that affects the security assessment in the sector, and demands the allocation of a large number of troops, who are diverted from other operational missions, with all that involves," he said.

In the appeal, attorneys Chagai Vinitzky and Eran Ben-Ari argued that the order was issued without the proper authority, and that it discriminates against them. They also claimed that the residents have aerial photographs showing the land was not farmed in the past 10 years. The question of farming the land is critical; according to the Ottoman property laws in force in the West Bank, land that has been worked continuously for a number of years is considered to be private land, owned by the person who farms it.

In response to the residents’ criticism of the order, Yadai said they had "blatantly and seriously violated the law, and within a short period built dozens of buildings inhabited by dozens of families." The fact that the settlers have continued building at the site even after they had received a demarcation order, which was to lead to the evacuation of the outpost, showed "a lack of good faith and contributes to the violation of public order and the rule of law in the area,” Yadai added.

Although the residents claimed that the land on which Evyatar is built is owned by the state, Shemesh said that the statement is baseless. He claimed that the settlers did not present any documents that the owner of the land – whoever it may be – gave them the right to use it. Their assertion that the outpost is en route to being legally recognized "is not supported by a professional opinion from an authorized body.”

He also rejected the claim that the order to expel the settlers was issued without the necessary authority. The claim was first made by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter his chief of staff sent to Defense Minister Benny Gantz earlier this month. In the letter, he claimed that the order to dismantle the outpost must be approved by the prime minister. The defense minister's legal bureau disputed the claim, and ruled that the authority to issue such orders rests with the commander of the Israel Defense Force's Central Command, who is the sovereign body in the West Bank.

A preliminary examination of the building plan submitted by the Shomron Regional Council, Shemesh said, appears to show that it is not technically feasible. The plan's submission in no way justifies not enforcing the order to evacuate the outpost, as the council had claimed.

Evyatar was established in early May after the killing of Yehuda Guetta, a 19-year-old who died in a drive-by shooting by a Palestinian at the nearby Tapuah Junction. The outpost grew rapidly during the fighting with Gaza and the rioting in Israel, as police were deployed from the West Bank to mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Soon after the outpost was founded, soldiers were deployed to guard its residents and separate Evyatar from the nearby Palestinian town of Beita.

In response to Yadai's rejection of the appeal, Yossi Dagan, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, said that "there is no reason to dismantle Evyatar, save for politics. The Civil Administration is rewarding terror. Hamas can print out [Yadai]'s letter and hang it on the walls of Beita and the Kasbah of Nablus."

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