Defense Ministry: Voluntary evacuation of 5 outposts in near future

outpost 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
outpost 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Defense Ministry's legal adviser, Ahaz Ben-Ari, on Tuesday notified the state attorney that progress had been made in talks with the settler leadership toward an agreed-upon solution to the issue of unauthorized West Bank outposts. As a sign of that progress, Ben-Ari said in the letter that five outposts would be voluntarily evacuated. The letter, which was first released by Army Radio on Wednesday and later obtained by The Jerusalem Post, did not specify which outposts would be shut down. But settler sources told the Post they would likely be empty outposts or small ones. Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said he wanted an overall deal on the 105 unauthorized outposts constructed between 1995 and 2005. The council has sought a deal in which some of the outposts would be legalized and others would be moved to areas within the large settlement blocs that would likely be retained in a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Of immediate concern for the government are 24 outposts erected after former prime minister Ariel Sharon took office in March 2001, which it promised the United States it would remove. Among those is the large outpost of Migron. Ben-Ari in his letter said that progress had been made toward finding an alternative site for the outpost, but he did not provide any details. Former Kedumim Regional Council head Daniella Weiss told the Post Wednesday she would never accept such a deal, and neither would many of the teenagers and right wing activists who have clashed with security forces in the last few years over the outposts. On Wednesday, scores of those settlers stood firm against security forces who failed to evacuate the Shvut Ami outpost, near Kedumim, which was established in October and had already been evacuated a number of times. Security forces started by dispersing a group of settlers, mostly teens, who had gathered to defend Shvut Ami, which consists of an abandoned structure that in the last five months has become home to a number of settlers. Clashes broke out during the initial evacuation; a teenager was arrested and an officer was injured. But security forces did not prevent the settlers from returning later in the day. Danny Poleg, spokesman for Judea and Samaria police, told The Jerusalem Post they were not removing the group from the area at this time. According to the Yesh Din NGO, security forces came to evacuate the settlers after the organization sent numerous complaints to the relevant authorities about the settlers' presence in the structure. The house and the land around it belongs to a Palestinian woman named Amar Badariya, who lives in the nearby village of Kafr Kaddum, according to Yesh Din spokesman Dan Magan. The police have evacuated Shvut Ami numerous times in the past five months, and each time the settlers returned, Magan said. In an effort to ensure that the settlers would not return again, this time Badariya asked members of Anarchists against the Wall to camp out at the site after it was evacuated by police. Their presence at the site had been coordinated with police, Magan said. But when the activists arrived, the police did little to protect them from the settlers who returned to Shvut Ami after the initial evacuation, Magan said. Activist Koby Snitz, told the Post the group had been assaulted by the settlers. When he asked an officer why he did not intervene, the response was: "Do I look like your bodyguard?" Fearing for their personal safety, the activists left. Police, however, told a different version of events. "The two groups were not near each other, and no clashes took place," Poleg said. Earlier, when police arrived for the initial evacuation, seven teenage girls refused to leave Shvut Ami. "Two girls eventually left voluntarily, and the other five had to be removed physically," said Avi Biton, spokesman for the Border Police. As a result of the clashes, a 17-year-old girl faces two counts of assault for allegedly attacking two Border Police officers. "During the protest, an officer told the young woman to calm down, but she hit him in the face and stomach," said Biton. "She was then arrested and placed on a bus. During the journey, the suspect bit the hand of a second officer, causing a deep cut." "She has been taken to a police station and tomorrow we will seek to extend her remand," Biton said. The officer received medical treatment on the spot. Poleg said rocks were thrown at security forces during the evacuation. No injuries were reported. Weiss, who was at Shvut Ami, told the Post that the girl was innocent and had not assaulted the officers. Nor, Weiss added, were there any other attacks against security forces. "We do not hit them, they hit us," she said. Datya Yitzhaki, of the Land of Israel Faithful, which first set up the outpost in October, also denied Yesh Din's claim that the land belonged to a Palestinian woman. It was earlier owned by a Jordanian general and has been considered abandoned property since the end of the Six Day War, Yitzhaki said. She and Weiss said there was no reason Jews could not build on the land. Since last summer, the Land of Israel Faithful had held a number of mass demonstrations as parts of efforts to establish new outposts in the West Bank. Among those was Harhivi, near Elon Moreh, which security forces successfully evacuated on Wednesday. There were only three young women and a baby at the outpost. They left when the police came. "That event passed peacefully," Biton said. "We showed the women our demolition court order and encountered no physical resistance." The Land of Israel Faithful plans a new drive on Pessah to create more West Bank outposts.