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Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice Wednesday seeking to force the government to evacuate five illegal outposts of their inhabitants within the next two months as well as a sixth outpost by August.
The petition requested that Givat Assaf, close to Beit El; Ma'aleh Rehavam, east of Nokdim; Mitzpe Lachish, west of Negorot; Givat Haroeh, west of Eli; and Mitzpe Yitzhar, south of Yitzhar, be cleared before the original order for their demolition expires in May. The order was first handed down by the army in May of 2004 after it ruled the settlements were built illegally.
Peace Now asked that a sixth outpost, Ramat Gilad, east of Karnei Shomron, be demolished by August ahead of its own demolition order's expiration.
All of the outposts are listed in the 2005 Sasson Report and are classified as "illegal." It was a similar petition that eventually forced the government to clear the Amona outpost of nine illegal homes on a February day which saw over 200 injured in clashes between soldiers and police, and settler protesters.
"The government is not behaving in a manner befitting a country which should respect the rule of law," said Dror Etkes, the director of Peace Now's Settlement Watch project. "We're saying that if you issue an order, which is protected by law, then carry it out."
The original demolition orders Etkes referred to were challenged by the settlers in the six outposts at the time of their issuance. The settlers lost their petition but the government did not act to enforce the army's ruling. With the demolition orders expiring for the first five outposts in May and for Ramat Gilad in August, Peace Now was forced to act, Etkes said.
Reached by telephone, Gili Lichtenfeld, a three-year resident of Givat Haroeh, had not heard about the petition until informed by The Jerusalem Post. Accordingly, no strategy for fighting the petition was currently in the works.
But Lichtenfeld, 36, a father of three who moved to Givat Haroeh three years ago, said his community of around 50 people had endured three previous evacuation orders and would stand up against this one as well. "The court said before that maybe we didn't build the settlement correctly but that we should be here," Lichtenfeld said, maintaining that Givat Haroeh is a neighborhood of Eli and not a separate settlement.
"Givat Haroeh is not the story. The story is more serious than that," he continued. "If Israel doesn't want the settlements that's a different story, but don't tell me it's a matter of law. There are places like this all over the state, in the Negev and the Galilee, and nothing happens, no one cares."
Attempts to contact residents of the other five outposts were not successful.
According to the Sasson Report, the six illegal outposts named in the Peace Now petition constitute the following:
â€¢ Givat Assaf consists of 14 families living in caravans built on private Palestinian land.
â€¢ Ma'aleh Rehavam consist of five families living in caravans built on state-owned land.
â€¢ Mitzpe Lachish consists of seven families living in caravans and some permanent structures built on state-owned land.
â€¢ Givat Haroeh consists of 15 families living in caravans built on state-owned and survey land.
â€¢ Mitzpe Yitzhar consists of only a few people living in caravans built on land which is most likely privately owned by Palestinians.
â€¢ Ramat Gilad, which was previously evacuated and reconstituted, consists of five families and one permanent home built on part state-owned, part private Palestinian land.
Due to the coming expiration of the demolition orders, the petition was filed as an emergency request. No date has yet been set for a hearing.
Despite the precedent set by Peace Now's Amona petition, Lichtenfeld was optimistic Givat Haroeh would remain for many years to come.
"The 'Roeh' is someone who always looks forward, and so we have a lot of faith that we will be here for a long time," he said. "And if not, then one day we will come back and build it again."
Asked what kind of resistance residents of his community would mount were the army and police to evict them, Lichtenfeld said he could not speak for his community, but that he personally would choose "something in between" the strategies of the Gush Katif and Amona evacuees.
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