A confrontation between the new Israeli government and Jews living in the newly constructed town of Evyatar in Samaria was cleared up with a positive and creative solution. But a conflict still looms as Arabs, enabled by anti-Israel NGOs, still threaten the town.
Evyatar: Creative solution delays imminent destruction
More than 50 families are living in the town of Evyatar. The families agreed to temporarily vacate the town by the end of the week, staying away until it can be determined that it was not built on private land. The government agreed to maintain a presence at the site so that Arabs will not move in and lay claim to the site.
The government agreed to allow the town to be used to house IDF soldiers until the end of the summer when it will be converted into a Yeshiva for the Hesder program which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service.
The Defense Ministry has committed to instructing the Civil Administration to complete its surveying of the land in question within the next six months. If it is determined that the land is not owned, the residents may be allowed to return.
The decision came as a result of negotiations between Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White), Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), and settlement leaders, including Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan, with the final blessing given by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
In addition, the Israeli Dog Unit established its new command center in Evyatar. The IDU brought in radios, monitors, observation equipment, and supplies to keep it’s fleet of drones ready to respond to threats.
The extra defense is necessary as Palestinians have been rioting daily and threatening the new settlement. In addition to the riots, the Palestinians have been utilizing what amounts to chemical warfare against the Jewish residents by burning tires upwind from the town night and day. Four Palestinians have reportedly been killed by the IDF in violence that threatened the Jews living in Evyatar.
A town born in response to terrorism
Evyatar was built in 2013 in response to the murder of Evyatar Borovsky who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian at the Zaatra Junction. Razed several times by the Israeli government, a new attempt was made to establish the town in May as a response to the murder of 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta at the nearby Tapuach Junction. Guetta, a yeshiva student, was shot and killed by a Palestinian terrorist while waiting for a bus. Two other young Jewish men were shot in the attack.
In addition, legal proceedings initiated by anti-Israel groups have been ongoing in an attempt to order the IDF to destroy the community.
Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich visited the site on Sunday.
“There are many hundreds of illegal outposts being set up by Arabs around here — even in these very days,” Bezalel Smotrich told journalists at the site. “There is one settlement that has been established here on land that belongs to the people of Israel, a settlement that was established to make sure that we strengthen our hold on the Land of Israel.”
These claims seem to have a basis in fact. Chagai Vinizky, one of the attorneys representing the residents of Evyatar, told JNS that the Civil Administration is discriminating against Israeli communities. Vinizky is a law professor at the Sha’are Mishpat College of Law and Science, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who specializes in property laws in Judea and Samaria.
“There are 800 illegal Palestinian outposts (extensions of existing communities) in ‘Area C’ and only 74 Israeli ones, but the only issue the authorities have is against the Israeli ones,” he said. “We know for a fact that Evyatar is not situated on private [Arab] land because nobody worked on it agriculturally for the past 10 years.”
Challenge to Bennett government
The fate of the town is a challenge for the leadership of newly appointed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who was elected on a right-wing platform that rejects the destruction of Jewish towns. To form a coalition, Bennett joined with left-wing elements like Yesh Atid headed by newly appointed Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who said last week that Evyatar would be destroyed.
“The outpost will be evacuated,” he said last Monday. “It is illegal. It is not at all a question of right or left. It is an order from the army and the civil administration.”
On June 6, 2021, the Commander of the Central Command issued a Delimitation Order, ordering the eviction of the entire outpost within one week. The settlers appealed against the order and were given a legal reprieve until June 27. The case is not before the Supreme Court.
In addition, on June 20, the Shomron Municipality filed a construction plan for 100 homes and a school to the Higher Council of Planning at the Civil Administration, which is the first step in legalizing the town and should also delay any attempt at demolition. If established, the town will be a neighborhood of the nearby Kfar Tapuach
The IDF was preparing to raze the town.
“The Evyatar outpost was established illegally. Everything was done in complete violation of the law and without any proprietary or planning agreements,” the IDF Central Command wrote in response.
The land has never had any history of ownership or construction though some anti-Israel groups protest the new town claiming a small corner of the land was lightly cultivated by non-owners 50 years ago. According to the applicable property laws, uncultivated land can revert to public ownership.
In his final days in office, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of his intention to authorize the outpost as it sat on “survey land.”
Evyatar (אֶבְיָתָר “the father is great”), appears in the Bible as the son of Ahimelech or Ahijah, High Priest at Nob, the fourth in descent from Eli and the last of his house to be a High Priest.