newsIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Evyatar declared state land in step towards new Samaria town

The move came 12 days after Evyatar received full recognition from the Israeli government.

Israeli soldiers stand guard at the newly town of Evyatar in Samaria, July 7, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Israeli soldiers stand guard at the newly town of Evyatar in Samaria, July 7, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration on Tuesday declared 65 dunams (16 acres) surrounding Evyatar in Samaria state land, paving the way for the expansion of the nascent Jewish town.

The move came 12 days after Evyatar received full recognition from the Israeli government in a quid pro quo that saw Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich prevent the Palestinian Authority’s economic collapse.

Declaring the territory of Evyatar state-owned land allows the government to formally start the planning process for the new town.

The Civil Administration and the Settlement Administration, a unit in the Defense Ministry under Smotrich’s authority, are still conducting land surveys in the area to expand the town, the organizations said.

“I thank the people of the Civil Administration, headed by Brig. Gen. Hisham Ibrahim and his [civilian] deputy, Hillel Roth, for their quick, professional and efficient work,” said Smotrich.

“Our enemies seek to weaken us, but they will not succeed. God willing, we will continue construction, growth and development in all parts of the country. We will deepen our roots, and we will all grow from the crisis into a stronger and more determined country,” he added.

Initially established in 2013 in the wake of the fatal stabbing of Evyatar Borovsky in the area but dismantled several times, Israelis moved back to Evyatar following the 2023 shooting attack at a gas station near Eli.

Earlier this week, hundreds of Israelis, including lawmakers, attended a festive prayer service in Evyatar to mark the new Hebrew month.

“A week ago, [U.S. President Joe] Biden said that Evyatar was a red line and should not be legalized under any circumstances,” Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu told attendees at the event on Sunday morning.

“But it looks like there was someone above this giant,” said the rabbi. “This victory teaches us that it is not because of a government decision that the legalization of five settlements was decided; it is God’s counsel.”

Last month, Smotrich told Judea and Samaria leaders that he was working to execute a “mega-dramatic” plan that seeks to shift legal powers in the disputed territories from military into civilian hands.

Smotrich said it was critical that control of civilian matters in Judea and Samaria be taken out of military hands to energize the growth of Jewish towns and block a carefully laid P.A. plan to establish facts on the ground via illegal construction, part of its quest for a state.

However, on Tuesday, Israel’s Ynet published a leaked recording in which Ibrahim appeared to oppose Smotrich’s plans for civilian control.

Commenting on Smotrich appointing Roth as the first-ever civilian deputy head of the Civil Administration, the general declared, “He is my deputy. I’m the head of the Administration; everything that happens in Judea and Samaria falls under my responsibility and with my approval.

“As someone who fought in all of Israel’s wars since I became a soldier, including the last war, and as someone who lost soldiers, commanders and subordinates—in every corner of this country, I have a story—I am still relevant, and I know my place in this organization,” he said. “I am the leader of this organization, and my deputies are subordinate to me.”

In response to Ynet, the Civil Administration accused the outlet of publishing an “edited and biased” text. “Unfortunately, the reporter decided to publish manipulated information,” a spokesperson said.

The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria has surpassed half a million people, according to a report published earlier this year. There were 502,991 Jews living in Judea and Samaria as of Jan. 1, according to the document, which culled data from Israel’s Interior Ministry.

The 500,000-plus Jews living beyond the 1967 Green Line account for some 12% of all Jews in Israel. The natural growth of the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria is expected to exceed 600,000 by 2030, 700,000 by 2035 and one million by 2047, the report added.

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