Yeshiva approved at controversial site in Samaria, left-wingers furious

Last year’s deal to set up a yeshiva at Evyatar, found to be built partially on state land, can now go forward.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As his last act in office on Wednesday, outgoing Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit approved a deal struck between the government and settlers in 2021 to allow a yeshiva to open at a controversial site in Samaria.

The nascent village of Evyatar was first set up close to the Tapuach Junction in 2013 in reaction to a terrorist murder nearby. Over the years it was destroyed several times by Israeli forces.

It was regenerated last May after 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta was murdered there by a Palestinian terrorist in a drive-by shooting. Some 50 families quickly moved to the site, which then became the focus of violent protests by Arabs from a nearby village who claimed that the land was theirs.

In a July compromise, the families agreed to leave if the army would guard spot while the government surveyed the land. If found to be state land, the government promised, they would be allowed to return to build a yeshiva  and eventually establish an officially recognized village.

A survey, completed in October, proved that 60 dunam (15 acres) of the site consisted of state land.

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who struck the deal with the families, have reportedly been pushing Mandelblit hard in recent days to give the necessary green light after months of his inaction.

With legal approval in hand, the government can officially declare the site as state land, enabling the Defense Ministry to issue the building permits.

Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan expressed satisfaction at the ruling.

“This is a correct…and fair decision – agreements must be respected,” he said. “We have advanced another significant legal step on the road to justice and the establishment of a permanent settlement in Evyatar.”

Left-wingers were furious.

“The intention of the [Bennett-led party] Yamina government to approve the establishment of a yeshiva and settlement in the criminal Evyatar outpost is a violation of the spirit of the coalition agreement and a total surrender to settler violence,” said Meretz MK Mossi Raz.

“It is unfortunate that there are those in the government who, instead of fighting against violence, work for those who are violent,” he alleged.

Since Meretz is part of the coalition, it remains to be seen if the government will manage to fulfill its side of the bargain and pass the next stage of designating the site as state land.

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Once building permits are issued, the public has a right to file objections, which then must be heard and ruled upon by the relevant committees. Since there is no doubt that critics of the settler movement will make use of their legal rights on the issue, there is still a long way to go before any construction would take place on the Samarian hillside.