As Settlers Prepare for Outpost's Evacuation, Some Continue Building Until Last Moment

If the Evyatar West Bank outpost is approved by Israel, settlers, who moved in a month and a half ago, would be allowed back

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Settlers building in Evyatar, this week.
Settlers building in Evyatar, this week.Credit: Hadas Parush
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The atmosphere in Evyatar on Wednesday morning was a mix of acceptance and defiance. While some settlers were packing their bags ahead of the evacuation, others, mostly the younger ones, continued working, including on the construction of houses. They said they would continue working until Friday, when the evacuation is scheduled to take place, according to the agreement that was reached. If they see that it indeed takes place, they’ll leave, they said.

The group of families in the outpost met on Tuesday to discuss the final compromise that was proposed by the government. Emotions ran high and responses were harsh. According to the plan, settlers will leave the outpost by Friday but the buildings they erected would remain, with the state again examining the legal status of the land on which they were built. If it turns out that the outpost can be approved, settlers, who moved in a month and a half ago, would be allowed back.

An earlier version of the agreement, announced by the settlers last Monday, supposedly contained a commitment by the government to erect an IDF-linked yeshiva on the site in August, regardless of what the examination of the land’s status finds. The final version stipulates that the yeshiva would be established only after such status is determined.

The change apparently stemmed from legal problems raised by the establishment of a yeshiva. The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, rushed to celebrate the earlier version despite being aware of the legal difficulties, and he is now being criticized by more combative settlers. On Wednesday morning, it was apparent that most of the settlers in Evyatar were not pleased with the deal.

“There are many holes in it, there is no commitment to a timetable or an explanation of what will happen. It could all collapse,” one settler who opposed the deal told Haaretz. At this stage it’s not clear whether the government intends to sign a written agreement with the settlers, or if it will be based on oral understandings. This too is raising concerns among the settlers.

A boy prays in one of the yeshivas in the illegal Evyatar outpost in the West BankCredit: Hadas Parush

“I’m worried that we gave in too quickly, we could have gotten much more. I didn’t agree with the previous version either,” said another woman who was part of the first group to settle there. However, she doesn’t intend to resist the evacuation, saying that if an agreement is signed, she would leave the place at the specified time.

Youths who heeded the call to come to the outpost to show a presence and help with construction also expressed their dissatisfaction, but only a few of them muttered that they’d refuse to leave.

In contrast to some reports, the settlers say that no army base would be established at the site and that the intent is only to maintain some military presence that would protect the land and buildings. They said that no clear timetable had been delivered to them regarding the completion of the examination of the land’s legal status, the establishment of a yeshiva or their possible return. In any case, past experience shows that the outpost, like the entire settlement movement, will know how to cash in on commitments they’ve received.

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