The Evyatar Compromise
The Evyatar Compromise: Building the Land and Nation

Israel's new left-right government, headed by Naftali Bennett, faced its first major test today – and apparently passed it. A compromise was reached regarding the new Samaria pioneer community of Evyatar – grudgingly acceptable to both sides. Opinion

Hillel Fendel ,

Elyashiv Rakovski/TPS

Evyatar was originally established seven years ago near the site of the Palestinian terrorist murder of Evyatar Borovsky. It was quickly removed, however, by the Netanyahu government – not once, but twice, when it was clandestinely re-established, and destroyed, a few years later after a similar murder of Itamar Ben-Gal. This spring, following the Palestinian terrorist murder of Yehuda Gueta, 50 families hastily ascended to the spot, built homes, and declared that they had come to Evyatar to stay.

The residents have long maintained that the land is not privately-owned, but rather state-lands, and that therefore the community is not only not illegal, but is rather a great Zionist venture. They noted the presence of hundreds of illegal Arab outposts in the near and far vicinity that were not being removed. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, however, wished to "punish" the Jewish pioneers for not asking permission before moving in; he made it clear that Evyatar would be removed, forcibly if necessary. It was even rumored that the destruction would take place as early as this coming Wednesday, June 30.

However, following night-long discussions between government officials and settlement leaders, this compromise was reached: The residents are to leave by the end of the week, an IDF contingent will move in and establish a military base, and a Hesder Yeshiva combining Torah study with military service will be officially established there six weeks from now. In addition, a commission will be formed to determine, within six months, whether the lands are in fact state-lands - and if so, the residents will return, and a bonafide Jewish community will be built there in the heartland of the Land of Israel.

Reactions were generally positive. Daniella Weiss, one of the most veteran and idealistic settler leaders of the past several decades, said this: "This government, which has been so sorely criticized, found the noble and uplifting way to talk with us – without over-powering us, but rather with admiration for pioneer builders of the Land. Our goal is not to force the government's hand, but rather to uplift it. Our achievement is not in going against the government, but rather in bringing it to the place which it itself wants to be."

Former MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) and head of the National Union party, and long-time Executive Director of the Bet El Yeshiva Center Institutions, was more practical in his optimism. He differentiates between the problematic government itself and its reliance on Arab parties, and the positive results that sometimes emerge from the negative:

"The government has a very slim majority and is totally dependent upon both Arab parties: one is a member of the coalition, and the other votes against it at every opportunity, except for when its vote might actually topple it. Both parties – one secular, one religious – are actually anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, and would love to see an Arab state built on the ruins of Israel, Heaven forbid. Yes, Mansour Abbas smiles a lot and looks friendly, but he is as just as anti-Zionist as Ahmed Tibi."

"As far as today's decision regarding Evyatar," Ketazaleh continued, "we must remember who Naftali Bennett is. He still views himself as part of the nationalist camp, but so much wanted to be Prime Minister that he maneuvered himself into a corner where he and Saar and Lieberman are a minority in a mostly left-wing government. However, he is taking advantage of the situation to try to salvage his right-wing positions; he certainly doesn't want his premiership to begin with the destruction of a Jewish town."

Ketzaleh emphasized that we must remember the background: "Netanyahu over the past 12 years talked very right-wing, but in fact destroyed many budding Jewish communities in Yesha. It was not because he was Prime Minister, but despite it, that the number of Jews grew from 204,000 in 2009 when I began serving as assistant to the Housing Minister, to close to 700,000 today. I don't believe Bennett would do anything to remove Jews from Judea and Samaria – but we have to make sure he doesn't limit and restrict them either…"

"The bottom line," Ketzaleh concluded, "is that the Nation of Israel is the nation of eternity and does not fear: We overcame when Bibi talked right but did left, and we will overcome now as well when Bennett talks right but has a Foreign Minister named Lapid who talks left around the world and explains the concessions that he plans to make when he becomes Prime Minister… Am Yisrael Chai!"

The radical left-wing Peace Now organization is furious at the agreement reached in Evyatar. "We must cease bending over backwards for the extremist minority [that wishes to build up Judea and Samaria]," it said in a largely-ignored statement.

Yossi Dagan, chief executive of the Shomron Regional Council, said this about the agreement: "We’re not dancing with joy, as the situation is complex and difficult, but we have definitely made progress. I salute the 53 families who live here and who, after a long night of profound discussions, accepted what I believe is the right decision. The structures will remain in place, and an army base and a Yeshiva will be built here. We believe, with a heavy heart, that this is the right thing do, not only for the building up of the Land of Israel, but also for the sake of unity in the nation, especially during these difficult times. Building the Land and unity in the Nation are two ideals that complement each other."

Dagan concluded with a Zionist appeal: "We call upon the government to build new communities throughout Judea and Samaria, and to return to the period of healthy values - the antithesis of the spirit of the Oslo Accords, of giving away parts of our homeland, which, among other things, led to the spilling of so much Jewish and Arab blood."