Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff Asher Hayun on Wednesday evening sent Defense Minister Benny Gantz a letter insisting that he stop the evacuation plan for the Evyatar outpost that had been established a few weeks ago near the Tapuach junction. The outpost, named after Evyatar Borowski H’yd who was murdered there by Arab terrorists in 1982, was evacuated several times in the past. This time, Jewish settlers returned to the outpost in great force, in response to the murder of Yehuda Guetta H’yd, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist in early May.
The political fight over the future of Evyatar could be the first issue on the desk of incoming prime minister Naftali Bennett, and as such has the potential to tear apart his right-center-left-Arab coalition practically on day one. With Netanyahu positioning himself firmly on the side of the settlers, Bennett does not have the luxury of leaving the call up to the “professionals,” meaning the left-leaning folks at the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
In reality, the entire affair will depend on the relationship between Bennett and the defense minister he inherits from Netanyahu. Gantz could choose to ignore his new PM’s stressful situation and risk a clash, or the two politicians could choose to kick this can down the road. However, kicking the can would get Gantz and the Lapid-Bennett coalition in trouble with its left-wing and Arab partners.
In the letter to Gantz, Hayun noted that the demarcation order issued by the IDF to prevent the entry of construction material into the outpost had been issued without authority and therefore the outpost must not be evacuated before the status of the land is clarified. He also warned that a demarcation order—such as the one issued by the IDF Chief of the Central Command—is an acute measure that should be used only in very exceptional cases and when it is not possible to use other means of enforcement.
According to Hayun, the area around Evyatar is under review for the possibility of declaring it state-land, and so an evacuation would subvert a possible future move to legalize Israeli settlement there.
MK Moshe Arbel of Shas was accused on Monday of bringing construction materials into the Evyatar outpost in defiance of the military’s demarcation order that prohibits bringing construction material into the site. Arbel bypassed a police checkpoint that was set up to enforce the demarcation order at the entrance to the access road to the outpost.
Arbel said he brought in diesel, two hoes, and a sack containing fertilizer for the kindergarten. “As long as it hasn’t been decided to evacuate them, we have a moral obligation to provide them with electricity, hot water, and air conditioning,” he explained, and added that in his opinion diesel was not included in the definition of “building materials.”
Last Shabbat, more than 1,500 people from all over the country came to Evyatar in a show of solidarity and support for the local residents – some 42 families and several dozen yeshiva students. They demanded the further development and construction of the new settlement. Arab rioters arrived on Friday from nearby villages intending to rush the outpost and were repelled by IDF soldiers.
The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, moved his office to the Evyatar outpost and issued a statement saying, “I am ashamed to see how in all the debates the Civil Administration says there’s not enough manpower, and so the administration can’t save millions of acres of Area C land from Palestinian takeover, and here there’s an obsession that probably comes down from the political echelon, to destroy this wonderful place, and throw these dear people out of here.”
Dagan said in response to Netanyahu’s chief of staff’s letter that he “calls on all the parties in the House, on the right and the left, to approve Evyatar. The regulation of Evyatar is a Zionist response to the heinous murder at Tapuach Junction.”
Like I said, this is only the first of many pickles the Lapid-Bennett coalition is walking into. They’ll have cans upon cans of it.