IDF Hands Over Former West Bank Base to Israeli Settlers

Structure to be used by South Hebron Hills regional council as emergency center; leading left-wing activist: Foundation of new outpost shows settlers can use system for their needs.

An abandoned Israel Defense Forces base in the West Bank has been handed over to the control of a nearby settlement council, Haaretz learned on Thursday.

The IDF base in Adoraim, once the home of the army's Engineering Corps training school, and a reserve base since the early 2000s, has been deserted for the last two years.

Adoraim  - Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

However, in the last few weeks the South Hebron Hills regional council has initiated extensive remodeling works on the base, replacing doors, erecting drywall, and beginning work on a new concrete fence meant to eventually enclose the entire compound.

It appears that the remodeling is geared at converting the structure toward its new purpose, which is to serve as the council's emergency center.

Since being deserted, the structure has been the center of a struggle by local residents for a "Jewish Adoraim," with activists saying they feared the abandoned structure could be seized by Palestinians.

In August 2010, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the request by the South Hebron Hills regional council, awarding it license to rehabilitate the structure and make use of it.

A few months later, in January 2011, a contract was signed with the Civil Administration, who limited the license to until 2016.

According to leading left-wing activist Dror Etkes, the agreement was part of a past trend in which the army took over land in the West Bank for security reasons, only to later pass it on to settlers.

"The ridiculous attempt to disguise the new outpost settlers from the South Hebron Hills are forming at the heart of the West Bank, using fire trucks and ambulances, is another expression of the settlers' success to unequivocally harness the system for their needs," Etkes added.

Defense officials, however, stated that the license given does not award the settlers the right to construct new structures.

The Defense Ministry said in response that it was "a lone structure from the evacuated IDF base."

"The structure's purpose is providing humanitarian aid to the general population, Israeli and Palestinian alike, in fire fighting and emergency services," the statement added.