Asphalted roads, stone houses, a nursery and even a synagogue: the settlement of Evyatar seems to be there for years, in the rolling landscape near the Palestinian city of Nablus. But nothing is less true: two months ago, this was still an unbuilt hilltop.
In no time at all, some fifty Israeli families burst a village out of the ground, without the permission of the Israeli authorities. And with that they proposed a dilemma to the new government: demolish, or abandon the illegal settlement? Today, the government seems to choose the latter.
Palestinian residents of the area oppose the arrival of the settlement, while Jewish residents claim to stand in their right. Clashes with the Israeli Army killed four Palestinians:
Today, according to Israeli media, the government concluded an agreement with the inhabitants of the settlement. All buildings are reportedly allowed to stand for the time being provided that the settlers will leave their homes.
The government will then consider whether the settlement can still be allowed under Israeli rules. In that case, the settlers are allowed to return to their homes. In the meantime, the hill will place an Israeli army base and a Jesjiva, a Jewish religious school.
The settlers celebrate the government‘s commitment today as a big victory. On the other hand, a Palestinian party calls the deal “the legitimization of colonization and crime”. The Peace Now action group also calls the appointment a capitulation for the settlers.
According to international law, all Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal. Yet Jewish villages and cities on the West Bank have continued to grow for decades.
Those who drive through the area will see them everywhere, scattered across the hilly landscape. Sometimes it’s dozens of caravans on a mountain top, but there are also complete cities like Ariel. There‘s even a university there.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers live. Here’s where those places are:
Thus, while Israel does not see a fundamental problem in the existence and growth of settlements, Evyatar was not authorised for the creation of Evyatar. The army therefore stated that the new settlement had to be cleared.
But politics has the last word. And for the new government, supported by both left and right-wing parties, the issue became a serious test and a potential fission fungus. Yair Lapid, the leader of the largest party in the coalition, said he wanted to evacuate the settlement.
But Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is sensitive. The right-wing nationalist prime minister previously led a major colonist organization and has a large part of his followers in the settlements. It‘s not for nothing that Bennett’s partymate Nir Orbach visited the settlement last week to support the residents.
The controversy offered former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an excellent opportunity to focus on relations. A delegation from his Likud party visited the settlement and pulled out for plans to evacuate the site.
The fact that the settlement is not being demolished for now will be a confirmation of what they already thought for many Palestinians.
“All Israeli governments are the same,” journalist and activist Nasim Mualla from the neighbouring village of Beita said recently. “They take over the mountains and build settlements. Whether it‘s Netanyahu or Bennett, it’s the same politics.”