The Next Settlement Battle? Two Buildings in Eli to Be Evacuated

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of Eli, in the Shomron.

In response to a petition by Palestinians living near the Shomron community of Eli, the government has promised the High Court of Justice that within three years, two buildings in the community’s Naot Ilan neighborhood will be evacuated, Israel Hayom reported.

The government’s commitment is a weighty one, as Eli is a long-standing community, rather than a recently-erected outpost, and the buildings in question were constructed roughly a decade ago and are family homes.

The government made its promise to the High Court at the start of this week as part of a response to the Palestinians’ petition, which was filed in 2011 against 20 buildings in Eli.

Eli was founded some 30 years ago through a Cabinet decision and without any orderly planning process. This past year, an expedited process has regulated the status of nearly all the buildings in the community, including most of the structures mentioned in the petition.

Years ago, a team from the IDF’s Civil Administration mapped the boundaries of Eli and determined that the two buildings slated for evacuation did not fall within the bounds of the state-owned lands, and therefore could not be regulated.

Since then, the government has repeatedly asked the High Court to find a solution to the issue and has avoided making any decision about evacuating the two buildings. The regulation team appointed by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu finished its work in the summer of 2020, without making any recommendation for the future of the buildings, throwing the hot potato into the lap of the current government.

The High Court requested updates on the matter, but over the last eight months, the government has repeatedly postponed any formal messages about the situation. This week, after the judges demanded to be informed about the status of the buildings, the government submitted a response that said, “After another review of the issue and despite the instructions from the political leadership to examine ways of regulating the buildings, no real possibility of doing so has been found. The government intends to evacuate these two buildings.”

Because the buildings are home to a number of families for whom alternate housing must be found, the government has asked the High Court for an extension of three years to the evacuation date.

Heads of the Land of Israel Lobby in the Knesset, MKs Yoav Kisch and Orit Strock, said, “This week, the government informed the High Court of Justice that it agrees to demolish the homes of four families in Eli. This is a horrifying, shocking announcement.”

“Rather than preventing the destruction of Jewish homes in Yehudah and Shomron, the government is busy regulating the illegal construction crimes in the Bedouin sector. This is a badge of shame for the government, which is freezing construction, as well as going back on all its promises to regulate [settlements] and also demolishing Jews’ homes,” Strock and Kisch said.

Binyamin Regional Council head Yisrael Gantz said, “We are surprised that the government is falling in line with the Arab petitioners and announcing that it will, heaven forbid, demolish two homes where families have been living for years, which are part of a living, vibrant neighborhood.

“Razing a home whose status was legal and which a new review by the Civil Administration left outside the settlement’s borders is a new low in crimes against settlement in Judea and Samaria. These two homes are just a preview. We have hundreds of homes with similar status in the Binyamin settlements and thousands throughout the settlements as a whole that suddenly found themselves outside the new ‘blue lines’ drawn in the Civil Administration’s work. No normal country would demolish homes in a situation like this,” Gantz said.