Israel Pleads Ignorance of New, Illegal West Bank Outpost Days After Visits by Officials

Police representatives, JNF chief and the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council all paid a visit to the outpost, which the state told the court it did not know existed

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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The entrance to the abandoned military base, October, 2018.
The entrance to the abandoned military base, October, 2018.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

The state does not know who is behind the illegal outpost being erected in an abandoned army base in the Jordan Valley, state prosecutors told the court this week, adding that the Civil Administration will be demolishing illegal construction at the base.

The state prosecution advised the High Court of Justice that following discussion at the Civil Administration, the decision was made to raze the illegally possessed buildings, but in any case, they don’t know who took improper possession of the base.

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The state prosecution's response was in regards to a petition filed last year by left-wing activists through advocate Eitay Mack. A left-wing activist named Guy Hirschfeld noticed Facebook posts about intention to illegally settle the Gadi army camp; he and others demanded that security forces prevent the illegal settlement from being established.

The petitioners acknowledged the unusual timing of their legal action, which was filed in opposition to an outpost that had not yet actually been established. The court did not issue the order for demolition and the case remained pending.

In response to the petition, the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which is the local government for the area, said it had no intention of establishing an outpost at the site. The petitioners then agreed to withdraw their petition, but two weeks ago the state informed the court that settlers had indeed entered the site. The Civil Administration ordered the settlers to stop work.

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The petition aimed at the army, the Civil Administration, the valley’s regional council, and the council head as well – David Lahiani, who was recently elected to a second term in office. The council and Lahiani argued that a Facebook post cannot be grounds for a lawsuit, and denied any connection with the outpost.

If Hirschfeld had taken the trouble to contact the council and its chief, he and the council argued through their lawyer, they would have “quickly discovered that the conspiracy theories … are baseless.”

The council did confirm that it had tried to “absorb” the group seeking to build the outpost, but in a legal fashion. In any case Lahiani had not known them previously and had not promised them a thing, they stated: “Even if the council was named in the Facebook posts, it was done without the council’s knowledge or permission.”

>> Israeli court: A West Bank outpost can legalized if land was seized in good faith

The group members met with the council head and were told that a new settlement was out of the question, the council and Lahiani stated, adding that he hadn’t promised to let them settle that abandoned camp.

The illegal outpost on Route 90Credit: Gil Eliahu

Whatever the case is, a visit to the site shows that several families are living there, and movement is brisk. There is a sign at the entrance to the site calling it the premilitary “Lial College." The college has an active Facebook page. On October 24, a photo was uploaded showing students from the college meeting in the illegal settlement with a police officer named Nissim Vaknin. Similar pictures featuring Lahiani and Atar were also posted.

Lahiani confirmed that he’d visited the site. (Last year he said he wasn’t familiar with it, nor was he promoting settlement in it.) He also told Haaretz that he has been in touch with the Civil Administration about legalizing it – the very Civil Administration that says it doesn’t know who built the outpost, is in possession of it, or why they did it. He also said he did not notify the court about his visit.

Before all this, there had been another premilitary academy at Camp Gadi, Hararei Zion, for two years, but it flopped, the Civil Administration says. The state and army knew all about it; and now a new premilitary academy is operating there – about which most of these entities knew, the administration adds.

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