Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has warned the government that plans to retroactively allow the illegal Evyatar outpost in the West Bank could strain relations with the United States and lead to a backlash from the international community , according to a report by the daily Haaretz.
News broke Wednesday morning that former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit had approved a compromise deal between the government and settlers to legalize Evyatar in his final hours in office on Tuesday. This decision, very controversial within the government coalition with various ideologies, still requires the final approval of Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
According to Haaretz, Lapid sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, revealing that senior US officials warned Israel of the consequences of going ahead with the plan.
“Any step towards the implementation of the plan, which, as is known, was not made in consultation with me and is contrary to my opinion, includes an effective declaration of state lands or the issuance of an “order special planning,’ which could have serious diplomatic consequences and damage to foreign relations, first and foremost of the United States,” Lapid warned. “This has already been made clear by the US administration at senior levels. “
“It would do real damage to the growing legal-diplomatic campaign [against Israel] before international forums, taking advantage to promote the delegitimization of Israel,” he wrote.
A copy of the letter was also sent to the attorney general’s office, according to the report.
The letter also reportedly noted that Lapid was not part of recent discussions regarding the plan and was not consulted on its potential diplomatic ramifications.
Army Radio also reported that in an official notice to the Justice Department, the Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Attorney General warned that promoting Evyatar’s compromise plan would cause substantial damage to diplomatic relations and strengthen boycott efforts against Israel.
“Diplomatic officials believe the plan will lead to an escalation of delegitimizing activity against Israel,” the opinion said.
Evyatar’s clearance has also put a strain on the inside of the government, with Meretz and the Labor Party speaking out on Wednesday against it, calling it “destructive”.
“Our government is facing a sharp rise in prices and urgent economic aid to citizens,” the Labor Party said. “Instead, a small number of government officials choose to advance illegal outposts that harm Israel and Israeli security.”
“Those who want a stable and functional coalition should act according to the agreements,” he added, pointing to Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Meretz said it would oppose “any attempt to establish new settlements” and that this issue is “the basis of the agreement to form the government”. The party said legalizing new settlements “is the last thing this country needs”.
Under the terms of the agreement reached in late June, the settlers left the outpost peacefully and the area became a closed military zone, with houses and roads remaining in place and a detachment of soldiers moving in.
As part of the agreement, an investigation was conducted which reportedly determined that part of the land did not belong to Palestinians, paving the way for the establishment of a yeshiva and the return of some settler families. Returning settlers to Evyatar always requires a formal announcement that the site will be approved, as well as a grace period during which objections can be filed.
In August, the High Court dismissed a petition filed by Palestinians against the deal. The judges ruled that the claimants’ claims to own the land were “speculative” and that the survey at the time was ongoing and incomplete.
The settlers named the Evyatar outpost after Evyatar Borovsky, who was murdered in a stabbing attack in Tapuah Junction by a Palestinian in 2013.
Several dozen settler families moved to the site, which had previous incarnations as outposts razed by Israeli authorities, and established the yeshiva. Last summer’s agreement that the settlers left came just after the country’s fragile government was formed and appears to have been struck as a way to avoid the media spectacle of troops forcibly removing Israeli families.
Palestinians from nearby villages say the outpost was built on their land and fear it will grow and merge with larger settlements nearby. Before the settlers left, Palestinians staged near-daily protests that led to violent clashes with Israeli troops.