Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday warned his colleague Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that promoting the establishment of a settlement where the Evyatar outpost is located could damage Israeli relations with the Biden administration and provoke a harsh response from the international community.
“Every step taken to implement the outline in question, which as is well known was not reached in consultation with me, nor with my support, including the very declaration of it being state land, or the issuance of a special planning order, may have serious policy consequences and damage to our foreign relations, first and foremost on the part of the United States, as this has already been clarified by the US administration at senior levels,” Lapid warned in a letter he sent to Bennett Wednesday, a copy of which was forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office.
Evyatar is an Israeli outpost in Samaria, some two kilometers east of the Tapuach junction, north of Rt. 505, and about two kilometers south of the Arab village of Beta al-Fuqa. It was named after Evyatar Borowski, who was murdered in a terrorist attack at Tapuach junction.
A compromise deal on the outpost Evyatar was signed on June 30, 2021, despite detracting voices on the left and the right. Here are the basics of the Evyatar compromise, which Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo signed, sealed, and delivered on behalf of the Bennett government, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz:
- All the residents of the outpost will leave Evyatar independently by 4 PM Friday (July 2, 20221)
- The homes will not be demolished. They will remain in place, empty and locked
- A military unit will be permanently stationed at the site, to guard against the hostile Arab neighbors
- The state will verify as quickly as possible the legal status of the land
- Once the land is regulated and its status is classified as state land, the demolition orders will be revoked
- Once the status of the land has been settled, a yeshiva will be established in Evyatar under a special order that would expedite the approval process
- Eventually, subject to the required government approvals, the state will approve a “permanent civic presence” in Evyatar, which is legalese for legal Israeli settlement in Area C.
On his last day in office, January 31, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit approved Evyatar’s outline, at the request of PM Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. The next step toward the establishment of a permanent yeshiva in Evyatar is the declaration of its land as state land.
Not if Yair Lapid has anything to say about it. Can Bennett and Shaked take on their most important partner? Would this confrontation offer them a way out of this coalition government, paving their way back to the right with a principled departure?
But wait, there’s more: following the publication of Mandelblit’s approval of the outline on Tuesday, Minister Issawi Frej of Meretz tweeted: “Agreements must be respected. Evyatar must be destroyed.”
Sounds strange? If the agreement with the Evyatar residents must be respected, why should Evyatar be destroyed? That’s because Frej wasn’t talking about the agreement with the settlers – he was demanding that the agreement with Meretz to destroy “illegal outposts” such as Evyatar be respected.
Frej further added that “there is a coalition agreement, do you want to go there? It means showing us the way out. We will act to prevent the approval.”
Meretz is justified, from its point of view, in its fear of a slippery slope in Judea and Samaria should the previous government’s agreement with the law-abiding Evyatar residents be honored. There are some 135 such outposts in Area C, some of them established decades ago, and the Evyatar precedence will certainly be used to defend them against future demolition efforts which will come, make no mistake about it, as long as Benny Gantz is in charge of Israel’s defense establishment, there will be bulldozers.
According to outgoing AG Mandelblit, it should be possible to start promoting the establishment of a legal settlement in Evyatar. In a hearing held by Deputy AG Carmit Yulis it was agreed that Gantz should declare that the lands designated for settlement are state lands – presumably following the required examination by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The summary of the hearing shows an inclination to permit the settlers to return to Evyatar even before the hearing of the appeals against the decision – which will no doubt be filed in droves.
Yulis clarified that “the essence of the planning will be temporary, so that the construction to be approved will be of a temporary nature to allow a change in the components of the construction, including their removal, in accordance with the findings of the appeals.”
Lawyers. You just gotta love them. I refer you to William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2: Dick the Butcher says: “The first thing we do, let’s [neutralize] all the lawyers.”