'A new town for every house the Supreme Court demolishes'

Ministers look to normalize embattled Gush Etzion neighborhood, vow that 'for every demolished house, we'll approve another town.'

Hezki Baruch,

Bennett and Shaked
Bennett and Shaked
Hillel Meir/TPS

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) met Sunday evening with residents of the embattled Gush Etzion neighborhood of Nativ Haavot.

Nativ Haavot, part of the Gush Etzion town of Elazar south of Jerusalem, is slated for evacuation by the end of the month, following a Supreme Court decision in December 2016 ordering the neighborhood's demolition after a disputed strip of land was found to run through it. Fifteen families currently face eviction.

While the Prime Minister has pushed for the approval of a 70 million shekel ($19.8 million) spending package for alternative housing for the residents of Nativ Haavot, the two Jewish Home ministers, told residents Sunday that they would request a delay in the implementation of the demolition orders, while pushing the government to normalize the neighborhood’s status.

The plan pursued by the Jewish Home leaders would rely on the Regulation Law, passed last February, which enables the government to legalize neighborhoods built in part on land later found to privately owned Arab property - or land that is under dispute - in Judea and Samaria.

Under the Regulation Law, the government offers compensation to the owners of the land, equal to 125% of the property’s value.

The Jewish Home ministers told residents they would call for a delay of the demolition orders on humanitarian grounds, noting that no alternative housing was prepared for the residents, while also pushing for the use of the Regulation Law to normalize the neighborhood’s status.

“Destroying houses is a painful thing,” the ministers told residents, “regardless of the circumstances. Our hearts are with the residents of Nativ Haavot – but that isn’t enough. That’s why we’re doing everything in our power so that residents will get the best they can out of this situation. The Supreme Court’s decision was a terrible mistake which forces [the state] to conduct an unnecessary evacuation, and it would have been better if [the court ruling] had never been made.”

“Peace Now and other radical left-wing organizations are taking advantage of the Supreme Court for their own political needs. They need to be made to understand that for every house which is evacuated because of a Supreme Court ruling, we’ll make sure that the government authorizes another new town in [Judea and Samaria]. That’s what we did in the case of Amona, and that’s what we’ll do in the case of Nativ Haavot.”

The town of Amona in Samaria was evacuated last February following a court order after part of the land the town was built on became contested, with several Arabs claiming to be absentee landowners who were given the property by Jordan’s King Hussein during his country’s occupation of the area from 1948 to 1967.

Following the demolition of Amona, the Netanyahu government approved the establishment of Amichai, the first new government-sanctioned Israeli town in Judea and Samaria in a quarter century.