At least 16 new outposts have been established in the West Bank since 2017, according to a report released Monday by Peace Now. None of the outposts have seen moves toward evacuation, the report indicates.
Peace Now report that a total of 31 outposts of the type described have been established from 2012 to 2019.
Haaretz visited all of them over the past few weeks, and found that most are various kinds of farms, raising mostly sheep and goats.
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The outposts in the report have been established throughout the West Bank – from the regional council in the southern Hebron Hills to the northern West Bank, the Jordan Valley, Mateh Binyamin Regional Council and Gush Etzion. They vary in character; some are farms and some are mainly living quarters. But nobody touches them. In some the local councils operate openly. None are legal – but they were all established on government land.
In this they differ from some of the temporary outposts that are being evacuated, and are not always strict about keeping to state land in their construction.
However, construction on state land without a master plan, permits and authorizations is a breach of the law and constitutes a takeover of assets that do not belong to those living there. Some of these outposts have indeed been issued demolition orders, but they are still standing. The difference is that illegal construction on state land can be retroactively legalized by the state.
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Among those established recently are Givat Geulat Zion (Redemption of Zion Hill). Another is called Ma’oz Esther (Esther’s Stronghold) near the settlement of Kokhav Hashahar and the outpost of Zayit Ra’anan (Green Olive) in the Talmonim area. The ruins of an outpost whose residents call it Habaladim Outpost, have become a symbol of action against the so-called hilltop youth. The inhabitants of these outposts lack significant political or economic clout. Even the heads of the local councils, those who demand construction in their bailiwicks, are sometimes glad to see them evacuated.
But alongside these are other outposts, that are stronger and better connected, and that no one touches. The regional councils are directly behind some of them, and support others quietly. The Civil Administration hardly interferes with those, and when enforcement does take place it is on a very specific, point-by-point basis. These outposts are growing stronger and receive the de facto protection of the authorities.
One outpost, in the southern Hebron Hills, goes by the name Shabtai’s Farm. At another, known as Mishol Hama’ayan (Spring Path) is located near the cemetery of the settlement of Eli in the central West Bank two young people said that the goal was farming and they wander among various hills in the West Bank and have situated themselves there for the time being.
The outpost that sprung up near the settlement of Negohot in the southern West Bank also looks agricultural. However, in that case it seems that the people operating it have especially good connections with law enforcement authorities. After Haaretz was there, and although the outpost is entirely illegal, a resident of the outpost was able to instruct the army to put up roadblocks to delay journalists’ visits out of concern that the latter are “collecting intelligence,” about it.
Other outposts that look agricultural include one built south of the Havat Gilad outpost in the area of the Shomron Regional Council in the Nablus area, one near Susya in the southern West Bank and one along the line of Tekoa outposts, whose name incorporates the name Tekoa with the abbreviation for the name of God In another farming outpost, in the Talmonim region in the central West Bank, a large group of young people was found operating the site.
Haaretz asked them about their activities as they drove old tractors up the hill and dragged away metal refuse, which they set by the side of the access road to the site. Among the outposts of this type established over the last year and a half in the northern Jordan Valley, is one called the Bentayim [“Meanwhile”] Farm.
At least in some cases the local authorities are directly involved. This is true for example at an outpost founded in an abandoned army camp, Camp Gadi, in the Jordan Valley. Haaretz reported on the takeover of the base in December. The prosecution informed the High Court of Justice in a petition on the matter that it was unaware of the takeover at the base. However, a look at the site’s Facebook page reveals that the chairman of Keren Kayameth Leisrael, Danny Atar, visited the site, as did the regional council chairman, David Elhayani, and police officers stationed in the area.
The outpost operates as a kind of pre-military program, supposedly for at-risk youth. As Haaretz has reported in the past, pictures of its students appear on its Facebook page playing with the weapons of soldiers who were visiting the site. The issue was looked at by the Military Police. Haaretz became aware recently that the Military Police had decided to close the case and deal with it “on a disciplinary level.”
Another example of direct involvement by the local authorities in establishing an outpost is at Givat Itam, a hill near the settlement of Efrat, south of Bethlehem, where the local council directly contributed to the renewal of settlement. The outpost was originally established after a terror attack at the Gush Etzion junction where Ari Fuld was killed. The council took official responsibility for the establishment of the outpost, whose homes were built without permits and illegally. The council says that permits had been issued in the past to establish a farm at the site. The Civil Administration said at the time that there was no intention of evacuating it and that the construction there was expected to be retroactively legalized.
Shabtay Bendet, who heads the settlement monitoring team of Peace Now, said: “The two-faced conduct of the government of Israel with regard to illegal settlements continues at full pace. Despite talk of arranging the status of veteran outposts to create the semblance of law enforcement in the territories, more and more illegal outposts are being established at full pace in the depths of the West Bank. The law enforcement authorities ignore the theft of land and legalize that which is illegal, without government approval as required and without public discussion of the matter. “
According to Bendet, the government allows the establishment of the outposts “with the clear intention of thwarting a future agreement, and the aspiration to force on the Israeli public a messianic vision that most of the public opposes.”
The Civil Administration said in response: “Most of the above cases are known to law enforcement in the Civil Administration. Those that are not known will be checked. Enforcement orders have been issued at a number of the outposts mentioned above and repeated enforcement has been carried out at the site. We note that enforcement [in the case of] illegal structures is carried out in keeping with operational considerations and the policy of the political echelon.