After a week in which Israeli security officers forcibly evicted Jews from homes they had been living in for years in two locations – in Gush Etzion and Kfar Tapuach in Shomron – rightwing activists and MKs were up in arms over a decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to hold off on the demolition of buildings illegally constructed by Bedouin in the south Chevron Hills.
The demolition of the buildings at the Nawaja outpost was approved by the High Court, but media reports Monday night said that Netanyahu had ordered IDF soldiers and Border Guards who had massed to carry out the High Court order to back off.
At issue are 33 buildings in an Arab outpost near the Jewish community of Sussiya in the southern Chevron Hills. The outpost was built by members of the Nawaja clan, who hail from the neighboring village of Yatta. The 33 homes were built on state land over the past three years in direct contradiction to High Court orders that no construction take place there at all.
The specific injunction was issued after a 2013 lawsuit by the Regavim organization against construction at the site. Already at that time, some 30 structures had been built on state land, and the court ordered that no new buildings be constructed while the case progressed. The state clearly established, using aerial photography, that the structures had all been built within the previous decade on state land, so there was no question as to their illegal status. That the court did not order the immediate demolition of the existing buildings was due to “humanitarian considerations,” according to court records.
However, the clan continued its construction activities, building another 33 structures after the court injunction was issued. In 2014, the court ordered these buildings torn down, generating a flurry of petitions and counter-petitions between Regavim and attorneys representing the squatters.
Meanwhile, the state tried to settle with the clan, offering them “very generous” terms to leave the site, according to Regavim – but the clan categorically refused to do so.
In August 2016, the court decided that the continued ignoring of its injunction was unacceptable, and ordered the buildings demolished immediately. The squatters appealed, and the state is set to give its response on Sunday. But according to sources at the Defense Ministry, the state – at the orders of Liberman himself – plans to ask for final permission to tear down just 17 of the 33 structures, again citing “humanitarian grounds” for permission to leave the other illegal buildings intact. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, as a candidate before the 2015 election, toured the area and vowed to remove the illegal buildings, and in the wake of the Amona evictions, proclaimed that “the law for Amona and the law for the Nawaja outpost is the same.”
In the wake of Netanyahu’s decision, Regavim said in a statement that “over the past week, Netanyahu allowed the demolition of the Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood and the Tapuach West neighborhood, but held off on demolition of the Palestinian Authority’s premier outpost in the south Hevron Hills.
“Netanyahu cannot blame the left or the High Court when he himself on the one hand conducts a strict policy against Jewish residents, while looking aside at the aggressive and illegal activities of the PA.”
MK Betzalel Smotrich said that “this story is nothing less than shocking. The case against these buildings has been in court for a long time, finally culminating with the High Court decision to demolish the outpost, but each time the demolitions get pushed off. Entire neighborhoods in Israeli towns have been destroyed, but for the Arabs, Netanyahu provides protection – why is not clear. In any event, this should make all of us very angry.”