New Israeli government understands West Bank, signaling continuation of Netanyahu policies
This was an early test for the new Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, and his ideologically disparate government, but eventually a compromise was reached with the Jewish settlers on an unauthorized outpost in the occupied West Bank.
Under the deal, 53 families will leave the hilltop south of Nablus, Daniella Weiss, leader of the outpost settler group, told NBC News this week.
An investigation will be conducted to prove that the settlement, named Eviatar after an Israeli killed by a Palestinian in 2013, was established on state land and not on land owned by Palestinians, Weiss said. The plan is to create a religious school and then allow families to return eventually, she added.
An Israeli government official confirmed that an agreement had been reached.
Weiss said she was not happy with the deal but chose the less favored option because “the alternative is a terrible clash between thousands of settlers and thousands of soldiers.”
The outpost posed a challenge to Bennett’s fledgling government, which took power last month. The new prime minister is a supporter of Jewish settlements and opposed to a Palestinian state. But he chairs a motley coalition of right-wing, centrist, and left-wing parties that includes lawmakers opposed to settlements and in favor of a Palestinian state.
The compromise with the settlers will be a blow to the left-wing factions of Bennett’s coalition, and analysts say his government is not straying from the expansionist policies of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There have been accounts within the government,” said Mairav ââZonszein, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, which works to prevent war. “But at the end of the day, this compromise deal is really just a de facto endorsement of the remaining outpost.”
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Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked, member of Bennett’s pro-colonist Yamina party, tweeted Wednesday that the agreement was “an important achievement” for the colonization in the land of Israel and thanked “the pioneers of Eviatar who, with devotion, demonstrate what Zionism is”.
But Omer Barlev, the Minister of Public Safety and member of the center-left Labor Party, tweeted that “the illegal outpost should be evacuated just because it is illegal.”
Most members of the international community consider West Bank settlements illegal. Outposts like Eviatar were established without government permission and without valid title deeds and are therefore illegal under Israeli law as well as international law, according to Yuval Shany, professor of international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. .
In the nearby village of Beita, Palestinians demonstrate daily. Five people were killed in clashes with Israeli troops and hundreds injured, according to Beita resident Mohammad Khabeesa.
The IDF said violent riots involved hundreds of Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli forces who responded using “riot dispersal methods.” Investigations have been opened into the five deaths, the military said.
Khabeesa, 68, said her family owned land taken by settlers from Eviatar.
âIf this colony stays there, it’s an occupation,â he said. âThe Israeli government, the army and the settlers all have an agreement – they are all the same to me. “
Israel captured the occupied West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War, but the Palestinians want the territory to be part of a future Palestinian state.
In the Al Bustan neighborhood of East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, Israeli authorities also demolished a Palestinian butcher’s shop on Tuesday and 15 families are at risk of losing their property, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Amani Odeh, 34, whose house is in danger, said the new coalition had already accelerated the last government’s policies in East Jerusalem.
âThey destroy people’s hope,â she said, adding that residents now depend on international intervention and the law to protect them.
The Biden administration has urged Israel to refrain from taking unilateral steps that could hamper the eventual relaunch of the peace process, which has been moribund for more than a decade.
Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli expert on Jerusalem, said that although he believed the new government would be more attentive to voices coming from the United States and Europe than that of Netanyahu, it was not clear whether this would affect politics.
âAfter 54 years of occupation and 12 years of Netanyahu, the ideology of the settlers is the DNA of official Israel and organs of the Israeli government,â Seidemann said.
The situation in Eviatar indicated that the people making the decisions are not brave enough to confront the settlers, but those policies could change with time, effort and courage, he said.
Bennett, he said, remained an unknown amount.
âI don’t know who Bennett is because I suspect he doesn’t know who he is either,â Seidemann said. “We’re about to find out.”