'Settlers lift Gush from consensus'

Four times more illegal

tamir settler 248 88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
tamir settler 248 88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Touring the Netiv Ha'avot outpost in Gush Etzion along with other members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday, MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) confronted the settlers and reprimanded them for what she said was their illegal presence at the site. "You shouldn't have begun construction here before receiving permits, even if it is a beautiful, important and strategically important place. I hold that the Gush Etzion bloc is part of the consensus too, but when you help yourselves to rights no other citizens have, you are removing Gush Etzion from the consensus," Tamir said. "I have examined 200 locales around Israel," Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein responded, "and they were all erected this way. This is the building culture in Israel." Goldstein went on to explain that "since 2003, not a single new outpost was erected within the council's jurisdiction, since we realized that the rules of the game have changed. But now, one cannot apply those rules on building that is already in motion." When asked about the extent of illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank, head of the Civil Administration's Supervision Unit Marco Ben Shabbat told the MKs that "in a rough estimate, there is four times more illegal Palestinian construction [in the West Bank] than Jewish illegal construction." After the tour, committee head MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that "Gush Etzion is in the heart of the consensus. Israel is committed to reaching a deal on the outposts, and I hope this government will." The Netiv Ha'avot outpost was erected in February 2001 next to the settlement of Elazar, south of Jerusalem. Peace Now claims that the entire outpost is built on private Palestinian land. A petition against the outpost, which has 17 permanent homes and 15 caravans, was filed by eight Palestinian farmers from the village of El Khader, together with Peace Now. The Palestinians maintain that they own the land and cultivated it until the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. They were forced to abandon it because of military curfews and closures, which forced them to remain at home. In February 2001, settlers built mobile and permanent homes on the land and moved in. The Civil Administration declared that the buildings were illegal and ordered the settlers to leave, but did nothing to enforce the orders. In its response to the Peace Now petition, the state has acknowledged that the houses were illegally built and that the government would remove them according to an order of priorities it had established for dismantling all illegal Jewish construction in the West Bank. It did not confirm that the buildings were erected on private Palestinian land but said that since the land was not registered, it was unclear whether it was state- or privately owned. Furthermore, the state confirmed that there was no government-authorized development plan for the outpost. Netiv Ha'avot is among the 105 outposts listed in the Sasson Report, which was accepted by the cabinet in 2005. The report notes that the Construction and Housing Ministry spent NIS 300,000 to develop the site. Tovah Lazaroff and Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.