The Nahala Settlement Movement on Thursday vowed to launch further outpost-building initiatives after security forces evacuated the seven protest encampments they briefly set up on West Bank hilltops one day earlier.
“We have only just begun,” veteran settler leader and Nahala co-chair Daniella Weiss told reporters during a Zoom conference.
“Yesterday was the start of a new period,” she said after her initiative drew some 10,000 right-wing activists from across the country. Weiss claimed that this was just the opening salvo in a larger campaign to reclaim land in Judea and Samaria.
Years from now, she told The Jerusalem Post, this campaign will be seen as the birth of what will be seven thriving Jewish communities.
A renewed wave of spirit
Prior to the event that began Wednesday at 4 p.m. and ended within 24 hours, the IDF, Border Police and Israel Police had issued an unusual statement warning to activists that the event, designed to build seven outposts, was illegal and would not be tolerated.
Security forces that accompanied the activists from the start did not for the most part block them from reaching their destinations.
The activists, many of whom were older teenagers and young adults, set up three camps in the Samaria region and two in the Binyamin area. Another two protest points were erected near the Kiryat Arba settlement located between Gush Etzion and the South Hebron Hills.
Security forces moved against the encampments in the middle of the night, leaving Hilltop 26 near Kiryat Arba for last. It was evacuated only on Thursday afternoon. That hilltop has particular emotional resonance for settlers because is the site of a 2003 terrorist attack in which Netanel Ozeri, 34, was killed.
According to the right-wing NGO Honenu, 11 activists were arrested throughout the West Bank during the one-day outpost-building initiative.
The campaign was the largest civil disobedience action carried out by settlers in years. It follows Nahala’s campaign last year, through which some 50 families moved onto the Evyatar outposts. They left only after securing an agreement from the government to eventually legalize the Samaria hilltop.
Where does this leave politicians?
This initiative has been in the works for months but was carried out in the aftermath of US President Joe Biden’s visit, in which both he and Lapid spoke of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It also comes at the start of an election period, in which Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White) is vying against Netanyahu for leadership of the Right. Settler drives to build outposts place him in a political bind.
MK Yair Golan (Meretz) charged, “The messianic Right is conducting an election campaign based entirely on violence, racism and delinquency.”
“The messianic Right is conducting an election campaign based entirely on violence, racism and delinquency.”Meretz MK Yair Golan
Religious Zionist Party politicians, as well as some Likud politicians, identified heavily with the initiative. Religious Zionist MKs Orit Stuck, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Simha Rothman, Michal Waldiger and party head Bezalel Smotrich joined the activists in the field.
Struck accused security forces of using excessive force in evacuating the activists. She posted a video from the evacuation, stating that Gantz had "lost it."
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who heads the Yamina Party, also spoke out against the security forces and in support of the activists.
“Again violence [against] settlers,” Shaked tweeted. “The police should save their energy for eradicating real crime in the country.”
“[These are] wonderful youth who enlisted in the middle of summer vacation to build this country,” Shaked wrote, adding that the activists “are a real inspiration, and their dedication serves as a guarantee that Zionism will overcome any challenge or crisis, internal or external.”
She added that they should be “strengthen and embraced!”
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev (Labor) scolded Shaked on Twitter for her words. “A senior government minister should not encourage, at the expense of dedicated police officers, lawlessness and criminal activity – just because she is desperate to flatter her base” so her party can receive enough votes to enter the Knesset, he said.
Shaked knows, Bar Lev said, that such criminal activity “keeps the IDF and the police from carrying out their duties and undermines the security of the State of Israel.”