Israel's Attorney General Plans to Deal With Illegal West Bank Outposts Despite Conflict of Interest

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Meira, who had previously represented the Samaria Regional Council, signed a conflict of interest agreement preventing her from dealing with issues related to the council for a year

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Attorney General Gabi Baharav-Miara at her inauguration ceremony in Jerusalem in February.
Attorney General Gabi Baharav-Miara at her inauguration ceremony in Jerusalem in February.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The Israeli attorney general has a conflict of interest in dealing with some West Bank settlements because she represented a regional council beyond the Green Line while a lawyer in private practice, but nevertheless intends on dealing with broader issues relating to this council.

Upon taking office in February, Gali Baharav-Miara signed a conflict of interest agreement regarding the Samaria Regional Council – the local government for Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank. However, she still intends on dealing with a number of issues related to the council such as retroactive authorization for the West Bank outpost of Evyatar, linking unauthorized outposts in the council's territory to the electricity grid, and the unauthorized outpost of Homesh.

All these issues are of top priority to the council and its chairman, Yossi Dagan.

Baharav-Miara released the conflict-of-interest statement that she signed when she took office. It bars her from dealing with her prior clients’ interests until February. As is customary, many details on the copy of the statement, relating to companies and other entities in which she is in a conflict of interest due to personal connections to them, were blacked out.

In response to this article, Baharav-Miara stated that while she would refrain from dealing with clients whom she personally dealt with for a year, that does not bar her from “dealing with general issues even if they have an indirect impact on clients or their rights, unless to the best of her knowledge, it would have an essential impact on them.”

Last year, she represented the council in a petition filed against the government claiming that a commitment to state funding had been violated. The matter was settled for 1.5 million shekels ($450,000).

Efforts to retroactively authorize the outpost at Evyatar are considered one of the council’s flagship projects. Dagan who was in contact with the government on behalf of the outpost in that regard, also chaired the council meeting at which it was decided to retain her legal services.

Last June, an agreement between the settlers of Evyatar and the government required that the settlers leave the site but that their homes remain intact. According to the agreement, the settlers could return if the land was deemed to be owned by the state. A survey then found that 60 dunams (15 acres) could be declared state-owned land.

The entrance to the Evyatar outpost in February.

Last week, Dagan said any violation on the government’s part would be a “red line” that would prompt “a public battle that would shake up the country.”

Baharav-Miara also intends to deal with the Homesh outpost, another of the council’s flagship projects, in addition to related issues such as the operation of a yeshiva at the site, efforts to establish other outposts in the area and visits by elected officials to Homesh. Dagan, who last week led a march to outpost, said in January that “the government will fall over Homesh.”

Moreover, there is the issue of providing electricity to unauthorized outposts which fall under the Samaria Regional Council’s jurisdiction. According to the Settlement Watch project of Peace Now, there are 37 such outposts in the council’s territory. Many of them are expected to be considered by the defense and justice ministries as potential candidates for receiving electricity.

The outposts have close ties with the regional councils in the West Bank, which sometimes have been full partners in their establishment. The Samaria Regional Council collects municipal taxes from residents of the outposts and provides them with services such as street lighting, and in many instances, including at the Tzufim North outpost, it has also funded the construction of outpost housing.

A developer involved in settlement construction has made a commitment to the regional council to build in the outpost of Nofei Nehemia, which is expected to be constructed between other sites that will be connected to electricity.

Among other companies and entities that have been redacted from Baharav-Miara’s list of conflicts of interest are the Mishab construction firm, the Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed youth movement and Bnei Akiva’s yeshivas and female educational ulpanot schools.

The statement from the Attorney General’s Office went on to say that details were redacted from the list to avoid “harming the interests of third parties, but in any event, following a freedom of information request that was filed, [Baharav-Miara] has expressed her consent to remove the redactions, subject to providing those third parties the opportunity to object, as is customary and in accordance with regular legal practices.”

When asked by Haaretz whether she intended to deal with issues relating to Evyatar and Homesh and electricity for outposts in the jurisdiction of the Samaria Regional Council, the Attorney General’s Office replied that “in accordance with the agreement and with the consent of the office’s legal adviser, there is nothing preventing the attorney general from dealing with those subjects.”

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