Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with settler leaders after a cabinet vote legalizing the Netiv Ha'avot outpost, February 2018.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Israel’s government voted Sunday to legalize the Netiv Ha’avot outpost as a new neighborhood of the Elazar settlement in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank.
According to settlers, this would involve a master plan of 350 homes. Such construction would significantly expand the Elazar settlement, which according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, was home to 2,568 people in 2016.
Although it is the second time this month the cabinet has authorized an outpost, such votes are rare. It is a testament to the sea change in the government’s attitude from demolition to authorization toward such illegal hilltop communities under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reign.
The decision will only come into effect after the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria completes a master plan for the new neighborhood.
The cabinet’s vote has no bearing on the High Court of Justice ruling that the IDF must demolish 15 homes in the Netiv Ha’avot community of some 41 families.
After the vote, Netanyahu met with settler leaders including YESHA Council head Hananel Durani, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman and Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro’eh.
“We were happy to hear that Netanyahu is standing with us,” Durani said.
Right-wing politicians said the vote was a victory for the settlement movement. They added that it was also a statement against such court rulings and against the leftwing Israeli organizations that have petitioned against such illegally built homes.
“The government correctly sent a message to anyone who tries to harm the settlements through legal warfare,” Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said.
“Each time the court imposes an evacuation on us, we will transform that event into one that expands and strengthens the settlements,” he said.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Bayit Yehudi and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the party, also lauded the decision, which they had promoted.
“It is our duty to minimize as much as possible the problem that were created by an erroneous decision of the High Court of Justice,” they said in a statement to the media.
“For every house that will be dismantled as a result of petition by left-wing organizations, we will establish a legal settlement that cannot be moved,” they said.
The left-wing group Peace Now, which had petitioned the High Court against the outpost slammed Netanyahu and said that he was “not fit to make decisions.”
“Once again he has proved that there is one law for the settlers and another for the rest of the country’s citizens,” it said. “He has caved to the lawbreakers whom the court ordered to evacuate and has sent a clear message that crime pays.”
The government decision also included NIS 29 million to construct 15 modular homes on land known as Plot 91, which is near Netiv Ha’avot but is technically within the boundaries of the Alon Shvut settlement. Another NIS 24m. will be given to the 15 families to compensate them for the homes they have lost.
The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria gave its approval for Plot 91 only on February 13. The state has asked the court that it not be held to the original March 6 date for the demolition of 15 homes in the outpost, asking for an additional three months in order complete work on the modular homes.
The High Court is expected to issue its ruling on the matter in a matter of days.
Peace Now had initially petitioned the court against the homes after a 2014 land survey found that the 15 homes were on land that might belong to the Palestinian village of El-Khader and therefore could not be authorized.
Peace Now has an appeal pending before the Civil Administration with regard classifying property on which the outpost stands as state land.
It also has filed a petition with the court against Plot 91, claiming it belongs El-Khader. The High Court has rejected a request from the group for a injunction against work at the site.
“The millions in public funds that will go to establish a temporary community is a political bribe that makes it clear how ready Netanyahu is to sell out the public and national interest in order to [politically] survive,” Peace Now said. Once again it has been proven that a prime minister who is sunk to the neck in interrogations has no public mandate to run the affairs of the state.”
Separately, the cabinet on Sunday also approved NIS 40m. in compensation funds for the 40 families from the Amona outpost and the nine families from the Ofra settlement, whose illegally built homes were destroyed in 2017 as a result of High Court of Justice rulings.
During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu was briefed on construction of the new Amichai settlement, which the government approved last year for the Amona families.