Gantz warns settlers against illegal outpost construction

He issued the warning after security officials provided him with information about the campaign, which had been organized by the right-wing Nahala movement.

 A sign outside the Evyatar outpost put up by left-wing protesters reads "illegal outpost," February 17, 2022. (photo credit: PEACE NOW)
A sign outside the Evyatar outpost put up by left-wing protesters reads "illegal outpost," February 17, 2022.
(photo credit: PEACE NOW)

Right-wing activists plan to head to the West Bank hills Wednesday to build three new outposts despite an unusual joint warning from the IDF and the police that they plan to stop them in their tracks.

“This is an illegal activity, which the security forces have been instructed to prepare for and prevent,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

"This is an illegal activity, which the security forces have been instructed to prepare for and prevent."

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz

The left-wing NGO Peace Now on Tuesday said it had no intention of relying on the security forces and had organized an umbrella group of left-wing activists to halt the Nahala Movement.

Meretz MK Mossi Raz said he also planned to head to the West Bank to ensure that the settlers were unable to reach their destination.

 The new Nofei Yehuda settler outpost is seen near Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, on December 17, 2021. (credit: The Nahala Movement) The new Nofei Yehuda settler outpost is seen near Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, on December 17, 2021. (credit: The Nahala Movement)

Veteran settler leader and activist Daniella Weiss, who co-chairs the grassroots Nahala Movement that is spearheading Wednesday’s event, was not deterred by threats from Gantz or left-wing activists.

“We will not rest until we return the land to its people,” she said, adding that her group was determined to change government policy with respect to Judea and Samaria.

“We are coming with tents,” Nahala co-chair Zvi Elimelech Sharaf said. “We are prepared to be the pioneers at the head of the camp.”

“There are hundreds of families ready” to camp out on the hilltops, Weiss said, because “we have had it up to here.”

Wednesday’s event, in which activists will set out on foot from locations in the Gush Etzion, Binyamin and Samaria regions, is the largest such initiative in years. It follows last year’s targeted campaign by the Nahala Movement to establish the Evyatar outpost.

Weiss and Sharaf said the activists were contesting the government’s failure to halt illegal Palestinian building and its pledge to the United States to authorize six zoning plans for Palestinians in Area C.

The Nahala Movement is among those who believe that all of Area C belongs to Israel and that all areas of Palestinian building and development there would become part of the final borders of a future Palestinian state.

The places slated for outpost construction were on state land next to areas of illegal Palestinian construction, a Nahala activist said. “We are preserving state land,” he said.

Gantz “will be judged by history for abandoning the land of the Jewish nation to the Arabs,” Weiss said. “The nation’s land does not belong to a single person or leader,” she added.

In a rare move, Gantz issued a stern warning to settlers and right-wing activists against building outposts.

“Strict enforcement will be taken, and no violation of the law will be possible,” he said.

Gantz issued the warning after security officials provided him with information about the campaign.

Many of those who plan to participate are “law-abiding” residents of Judea and Samaria, Gantz said.

“They are not aware that the activity is illegal and not coordinated with the security forces,” he said. “Therefore, this message should be conveyed through all possible avenues.”

The zero-tolerance policy goes hand in hand with steps to strengthen the existing settlements, Gantz said.

His statement came at the start of his election campaign in which he has attempted to position himself as the leader of the Right, opposite former prime minister and Likud Party head Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israel Police and Border Police said they intended, together with the IDF, to place security forces at key points in the West Bank to prevent outpost construction.

Peace Now said: “The establishment of new terrorist outposts, though a public campaign backed by the messianic right, is a well-planned attack against the Israeli interest. It cannot happen.

“Gone are the days when a small, violent and messianic gang of Kahanists held Israel hostage. If the government, the police and the army choose to bow to the militias of [Religious Zionist MKs Itamar] Ben-Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich, we will stop them on the hills.”