Itongadol.- Following the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry and reports that Israel had shown a willingness to freeze settlement building, the State informed the Supreme Court that it intends to examine the possibility of legalizing four West Bank outposts, among them the settlement Givat Assaf, which was supposed to be evacuated a year ago.
According to the State, the majority of land on which Givat Assaf sits has been purchased, and procedures for approval of the transactions have already begun. This, the State said, paved the way for their legalization and the prevention of evacuation. The three additional outposts the State intends to examine are Mitzpe Lachish, Givat Haroeh and Ma\’ale Rehavam.
The State also responded to a petition filed by Peace Now, which urged that six outposts that had already been issued limiting injunctions, be evacuated. These previous injunctions had declared the outposts illegal and allowed for their evacuation at any time. The emphasis of the litigation in the Peace Now petition – and also the focal point of the pressure that settlers had exerted on the government – was centered upon Givat Assaf, which the State had promised to evacuate close to the the date of evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood, in June 2012, because it was situated on private Palestinian land.
After evacuating the Ulpana neighborhood, and in an attempt to avoid confrontation with the settlers, the State requested that the courts postpone the evacuation of the Givat Assaf outpost, claiming that some of the land on which the settlement sat had been purchased by the settlers, and this required further investigation.
In recent weeks, the settlers have expressed concern that some in the Prosecutor\’s Office want to evacuate the outpost, despite their purchase of the land. Settlers demonstrated regarding the issue in front of the Prime Minister\’s Office, and now it seems that the Civil Administration has, at least in principle, accepted their claims.
Regarding the other communities which are located in South Mount Hebron and Gush Etzion, the government argues that they are mostly on State land and it has ordered the coordinator of government activities in the territories to investigate the possibility of legalizing them. Against this background, it should be noted that earlier this year, security forces demolished nine structures up Rehavam.
‘Entire country will pay economic, diplomatic price’
The petition filed by Peace Now also asked the Supreme Court to order the evacuation of outposts Ramat Gilad and Mitzpe Yitzhar. The status of those posts has not yet been clarified, but in Mitzpe Yitzhar, the State has committed to evacuating a building located on Palestinian land, "according to priorities and operational considerations."
The Peace Now movement said in its petition which was filed in response to the State, "This is a slap to the efforts of Kerry. Instead of protecting the interests of the State, the Defense Minister (Moshe Ya\’alon)is protecting the Hilltop Youth and asking for the legalization of outposts that are supposed to be evacuated. The entire country will pay the economic and political price."
US Secretary of State Kerry is scheduled to visit Israel next week, and he has declared his intention to take the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss efforts to resume peace negotiations.
Last week, a diplomatic source estimated that negotiations would resume next month due to the efforts of Kerry, adding that "Israel has presented the US with list of steps that it is prepared to perform, including freezing or slowing down of construction outside the settlement blocs, and now they await a response from the Palestinians."