Demand for uprooting
In response to Katsover and Matar’s activities, the Civil Administration issued an eviction warrant against the plantings, despite the fact that it had stated that the land was in the process of being declared as state land. In response, Katsover and Matar, as well as Shaul Goldstein, then head of the Local Council, sent a commitment to the Administration, stating that they do not have and will not make any claim of ownership of the trees or the land. They clarified that the tree-planting was purely to preserve the land and not for personal use. They hoped that once the fear of them trying to privately take over state lands was removed, the eviction order would be removed, and the plants would be allowed to remain. But their hopes were dashed and the Administration stood fast.
One of the claims made by the Administration was that since it planned to declare the land as state land, it must be completely clear. Adv. Doron Nir-Zvi, representing Women in Green, rejects the claim: “The rule that land that is not clear, will not be declared as state land, has its logic. The Administration cannot declare that the land belongs to the state when there are others who claim ownership of the land. But the logic of this rule does not apply to Netzer: there is a clear and signed commitment by the Jewish planters, that they do not and will not have any claim of ownership, and that all their plantings are given as presents to the state. Why then can the land not be declared as state land without uprooting that which was planted?”
The matter of Netzer also kept the Lobby for the Land of Israel busy during the term of the last Knesset. In a letter from May, 2012, the heads of the Lobby, MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and former MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), called on PM Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene immediately and stop the uprooting. Elkin and Eldad claimed that the Women in Green’s plantings were “an act of Zionism of the first degree, as the women heading the movement, along with the Gush Etzion Regional Council, have officially announced in writing that they have no intention of personally taking over the lands of Netzer. Their sole purpose is to preserve the national lands, and they give the trees to the state as gifts.” Elkin and Eldad added that the intention to uproot the trees is a clear sign of “governmental arbitrariness that opposes the Zionist principles and the official policy of the State of Israel. The state should be carrying out its own widespread plantings to prevent the Palestinian takeover of area ‘C,’ especially in an area that stands well within the national consensus.”
When the Administration did not rescind warrant, the Women in Green organization filed an appeal to the military appeals committee, located in the ‘Ofer’ camp, demanding to cancel the eviction orders. The deliberation on the appeal will March 17.
The Gush Etzion Council has also appealed against the eviction orders. Davidi Perl, head of the Council, joined Katsover and Matar’s claims and stated that “common sense must be used in order to prevent pointless procedures that could lead to unrest in the region and even undermine safety and security in the area.” Perl also warned that “the uprooting will deal a fatal blow to the ability to preserve the lands as survey lands and bring them to declaration status, seeing as immediately after the uprooting, the Palestinians will enter the area and begin working there.”
The Administration’s response to the heart of the matter was a repetition of the same old tune: “They have no right to the land, therefore their appeal has no basis.”
I attempted to get answers to the questions that arise from administration’s course of action: I asked why there was a need for uprooting, when the Jewish planters have no claim of ownership of the land or the trees; how does the Administration deal with the concern that the Arabs will take over state lands that will be cleared of plantings; why do the trees on the land present an obstacle for the declaration of the land as state land; and if the trees are uprooted, when is the declaration expected to happen.