Israel Halts Evacuation of Illegal West Bank Outpost at Request of Defense Minister’s Aide

Israel's Civil Administration has suspended the planned evacuation of an illegal West Bank outpost after intervention by the defense minister’s bureau.

In the state’s response to a High Court petition filed by Palestinians from the village of Al-Sawahra al-Sharqiya who sought to have the outpost removed, it was revealed that Avi Roeh, former aid to the defense minister (then Benjamin Netanyahu) for settlement affairs, instructed the administration to freeze the evacuation of the Mitzpe Yehuda outpost south of the Kedar settlement.

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Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office that intervention by political officials for the sake of halting outpost evacuations is a recurring phenomenon that raises the specter of “the emergence of a highly problematic trend that undermines the rule of law.”

According to the state’s response to the petition, the outpost was erected on September 15 and the same day Civil Administration inspectors patrolled the area and found, among other things, a shade canopy, a water tracker, and a truck – typical of things found at shepherds’ outposts. It also says that “on the same day,’ the authorities decided to confiscate the equipment and the truck, because it also held a refrigerator and beds and looked like it was meant to be used for lodging.

However, that same day, Roeh verbally instructed the administration to freeze the removal of the structures. This was in wake of an “urgent” letter from Gush Etzion Council Chief Shlomo Ne’eman who said that the outpost “lies in the jurisdiction of the Gush Etzion regional council on land that is of private Jewish ownership.” On September 18, Roeh issued written instructions that the outpost should not be removed, and it was not, since the Civil Administration answers to the defense minister.

Even if an outpost is erected on privately owned Jewish land, as Ne’eman says, construction on that site is not necessarily legal. The Civil Administration has removed portable structures or structures built without a permit from privately owned West Bank land many times.

Ne’eman says the outpost is in the process of being authorized and there were no structures there that constituted illegal construction. In his letter he also asked that a protest tent erected by Palestinians near the outpost be removed: “We expect the system of the Civil Administration to stand by the law-abiding and not the law-breakers, and instead of committing an outrageous and illegal action against the Jewish farmer, to immediately remove the illegal Arab tent encampment.”