In 2001 the outpost of Derech Ha’avot was established upon the lands of the Palestinian village Alkhadr, near Bethlehem. Today there are 35 families living in the outpost with some 180 settlers…
On September 28, 2008 Peace Now appealed to the Israeli High Court of Justice together with the Palestinian owners of the lands, demanding the enforcement of the law and the evacuation of the „Derech Ha’avot“ outpost (Bethlehem area). As part of these hearings over this petition the State today (April 25, 2010) sent an update to the High Court of Justice, confirming that the Illegal outpost of „Derech Ha’avot“ near Bethlehem would be authorized, as follows:
„It was decided to launch a survey process to determine weather the lands of „Derech Ha’avot“ are State Lands … If the process should reveal that the buildings – all or part of them – are on State Land, then their authorization will be considered. Buildings that will be found built on Private Lands – their demolition orders will be executed, according to the priorities“.
The meaning of this declaration
- A. An official establishment of a new settlement, the first time since the Oslo Accord.
All of the previous Israeli governments refrained from establishing new settlements since the Oslo Declaration of Principals was signed in 1993. The previous Netanyahu government decided in 1996 not to build any new settlements, and ever since, Israel has openly declared that it is not establishing any new settlements (including Netanyahu at his Bar Ilan speach: „we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements.)“
All new settlements that were established after 1996 were declared „Illegal Outposts“ and the government issued demolition and evacuation orders against them.
Today is the first time since 1996 that the Israeli government is officially confirming that it intends to legalize an outpost, creating de-facto a new settlement in the West Bank.
- B. A dramatic change of the policy of the Israeli government The Peace Now Derech Ha’avot petition drew a response from the previous Israeli government who declared to the court that the outpost was illegal, that the structures in the outpost have demolition orders, and that the demolition will take place according to the Government’s priorities. The new announcement by the government rejects the demolition of the outpost and will instead be working to authorize it.
- C. The Palestinian owners of the lands will practically lose their lands The Israeli government has been using in the Occupied Territories an Ottoman Law which allowed the Sultan (now the State) to declare lands as public property (State Land), in cases where lands were not cultivated for several years.
n the case of „Derech Ha’avot“, the settlers based their claim on the argument that some parts of the parcels on which the outpost was built on were not fully cultivated, and therefore are „State Land“. Even if it is „State Land“, the settlers still need to get an official allocation of the lands from the state, such an allocation was never given. However, in today’s declaration the government promises to „consider“ retroactively authorizing the construction, which should include the allocation of those lands to the settlers.
- D. The outpost is one of the outposts to be evacuated according to the roadmap.
According to Peace Now research data, the Derech Ha’avot outpost was established after March 2001 and therefore, it is in the list of outposts that the Israeli government is obliged to evacuate (according to the Roadmap (see aerial photo from May 2001 showing that the outpost wasn’t built yet. The settlers falsely claim it was established just before March 2001.
In summary since Peace Now discovered the phenomena of the outposts in the early 1990’s we have been warning that their sole purpose is to evolve into full fledge settlements.
Several Israeli governments have consistently denied this and have tried to portray the outposts as being established without government approval, intention or support.
The Peace Now petition has created a situation where the government had to choose between evacuating these outposts, or to admitting what they have been publicly denying for years – their intention that these outposts become new settlements, With today’s statement the government will have to face the political and international consequences for establishing the first new settlement since the Oslo Accords.