Israel declares Palestinian outpost east of Jerusalem a closed military zone, but unclear whether the state can immediately demolish them, as Netanyahu has ordered.
Palestinian activists who set up an outpost Friday in area E-1 east of Jerusalem said Saturday night that the Israel Defense Forces had surrounded the area and were preventing supporters from entering. Activists said they would oppose any attempt to forcibly remove them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday ordered Israel’s security forces to evacuate the outpost, where activists set up a camp site on November 30 following his highly controversial announcement regarding construction plans for area E-1, located between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
Haaretz has determined that the tents were indeed put up on private Palestinian land. As such, it is unclear whether the state can immediately demolish them, as Netanyahu has ordered.
The state’s position, issued close to midnight on Saturday and signed by Osnat Mandel, head of the Justice Ministry’s High Court division, stated that “there is an urgent security need to evacuate the area of the people and tents.”
The state included a confidential intelligence assessment about the urgent security need. The state also specified that it before evacuating the tents it will complete an inspection of the encampment and dismantle them accordingly. The state is also demanding immediate evacuation of the people and intends to act immediately.
Some 200 Palestinians and foreign peace activists had set up 21 tents at the site Friday in protest of the construction plans.
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian activist who is leading the protest at the site, stated that “the people who need to leave are the settlers who have taken over the land, because the Palestinians have the right to stay on their land.”
Netanyahu ordered their evacuation despite a temporary injunction ordered by Israel’s High Court of Justice Saturday preventing the state from evicting the Palestinians from the outpost.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau said in a statement released Saturday that the state would ask the High Court to cancel the injunction halting the eviction.
According to the statement, Netanyahu has ordered that the site be declared a closed military zone and that all access roads leading to the outpost be closed by security forces until the High Court decides on the matter, in order to prevent additional people from gathering there.
Some supporters continued to arrive via mountain trails, however, though police prevented Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi from joining the protesters.
Police arrived at the site Saturday morning and ordered the protesters to leave, telling them they would be forcibly removed if they did not go voluntarily. According to police, the court injunction prohibits removal of the tents but not the people. Nevertheless, the IDF’s legal advisers recommended they wait for the High Court ruling before taking action. Preparations to carry out the order are being made in the meantime.
Civil Administration personnel also came to the site with an eviction order, claiming that the area is located on state land.
In response to the Civil Administration eviction order, four Bedouin families who claim that they own the land have asked the High Court of Justice to prevent the tent camp from being demolished.
The High Court petition states that the tents were “set up on private land as part of a tourist attraction focusing on Bedouin heritage and life in the area and the experience of Bedouin life in the desert.”
It states that the tourist attraction, to be active during winter and spring only, will feature activities such as baking pita, grinding flour on millstones, a henna ceremony and stories of Bedouin life.
The state says the petitioners misled the High Court with regard to the tourism project, and that the presence of the tents was intended as a political provocation.
In preparing the plans for area E-1, the state in 2005 examined the records for the state lands on which the settlement is to be built. The plan shows an area of 1,500 dunams (375 acres) out of the total 12,000 dunams (3,000 acres) allocated for construction that Civil Administration figures indicate is privately owned by Palestinians, though the land was not registered officially.
This means that although the Civil Administration is seeking immediate eviction based on what it terms a case of “recent squatting,” an order to stop work must be issued if the land is indeed privately owned. That order can be appealed within seven days, and if the appeal is rejected, it becomes a demolition order.