Israeli settlers have claimed victory after reaching a compromise with the government over the land they took illegally over six weeks ago. The government led by far-right ultra-nationalist Neftali Bennett, a major proponent of Israel's illegal settlement enterprise, was expected to raze the Eviatar outpost in the occupied West Bank to the ground, but a compromise deal has been struck that will see settlers leave it within days. Their mobile homes will remain, though, and Israeli troops will establish a base in the area.
In the meantime, the Israeli authorities will examine the legal status of the land and, as is invariably the case, it will eventually be granted approval for use by the settlers. They will then be able to move back to the site. Leaders of the settler community are claiming victory, as they know that in the end, the facts on the ground created by the illegal outpost will lead to another permanent Jews-only settlement in what is occupied Palestinian territory.
"This is a strategic plan," said the head of Samaria Regional Council, where the settlement is located. "Ultimately our main mission is to build the Land of Israel and to maintain unity among the people of Israel."
Eviatar was established in early May when the outpost grew rapidly during Israel's 11-day bombardment of Gaza and weeks of communal violence and unrest in occupied East Jerusalem and mixed cities across Israel. It's thought that the deployment of Israeli police from the West Bank to Israeli towns to quell the unrest paved way for the latest settler takeover of Palestinian land.
Nevertheless, soon after the outpost was founded, soldiers were deployed there to guard the residents as is the norm and keep Eviatar apart from the nearby Palestinian town of Beita. In photos published by Haaretz, soldiers could be seen helping to build the illegal settlement, which is surrounded by olive trees cultivated by Palestinians from nearby villages. Israeli soldiers have also killed four Palestinians protesting against the land grab, two of whom were children aged 15 and 16.
Settlers have good reason to claim victory. Once an illegal outpost has been erected and becomes a fact on the ground, the Israeli government grants permission to build permanent structures for a Jews-only settlement. "We're Zionist pioneers who are going to the front for the whole Jewish people," said a settler from Eviater. "Does that mean we don't deserve water or electricity? We're asking the state to provide us with basic needs."
Over half a million Israelis live in such Jews-only settlements built on stolen Palestinian territory which the international community believes should be used for an independent Palestinian state. Successive Israeli governments, however, have made this impossible through the decades' long policy of land grab and de facto annexation of Palestinian territory.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. All Israeli outposts are illegal under both international and Israeli law.