The Jerusalem Post

Evyatar is the window into the new gov’t

- • By DOUGLAS ALTABEF The author is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organizati­on, and a director of the Israel Independen­ce Fund. He can be reached at dougaltabe­

The new government is trying to show its unity, not courting controvers­y, though there will inevitably be controvers­ies thrust upon it.

Given this orientatio­n, it seems strange that Evyatar, a recently constructe­d community near Tapuah Junction in Samaria, should have been an issue to be tackled so soon, if at all.

Unlike other issues, such as the pending renewal of the Family Reunificat­ion Act, Evyatar was not required to be dealt with, and certainly not so soon in the tenure of the new government. The question fairly arises as to why it became a prime issue, and what that reality indicates.

One might have thought that the opposition made Evyatar an issue in the effort to corner PM Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar as to their stated desire to not evacuate settlement­s. And yet, it seems to have been Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the putative architect, if not puppet master, of the new government that was taking up the opportunit­y to evacuate.

What might have been Lapid’s motivation for doing so? Was this a power play, a show of strength or an attempt to establish a functional pecking order?

It’s hard to know, but in raising the issue of Evyatar, for whatever reason, a window has been opened on the challenges that this new government faces.

One challenge is fairness. The unseen 800-pound gorilla in the room with Evyatar is Khan al-Ahmar, the illegal Bedouin settlement on Route 1 between Ma’aleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim.

While the attempts at finding a compromise that might defuse the Evyatar controvers­y

all recognize that the ownership of its underlying land is still at issue, there is no such question concerning Khan al-Ahmar; it is patently illegal, per the edict of Israel’s Supreme Court.

So where is the reciprocal outcry for the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar? And by extension, where is the outcry to apply the same care and concern for legality of constructi­on that has attended Evyatar to the dozens of illegal roads, buildings and settlement­s constructe­d by Palestinia­ns as a way to create facts on the ground in Area C? And where is the concern for illegal building in the Negev?

IT IS FAIR to point out that the previous government failed to tackle Khan al-Ahmar and rampant illegal Palestinia­n constructi­on. However, we learned as kids that two wrongs don’t make a right; there is also a strong argument that part of the reason why there has been a change of government­s is precisely because of the failure to address this and related issues.

Right now, there is a proposal that would save Evyatar from evacuation and destructio­n and turn it into a hesder yeshiva. However elegant a solution this offers to an extricatio­n from the nightmaris­h and Gush Katif-reminiscen­t prospect of watching soldiers throw Jewish families out of their homes, it seems like only a Band-Aid.

Band-Aids can save the day, but they are not the stuff of durable, resilient government­s. Resilient government­s require principles and priorities.

The new government, which refers to itself as the government of change, must answer the question: a change to what? There is change for change’s sake, meaning the replacemen­t of the prime minister, and there is change for a new and different vision.

It is to be expected that such a diverse and potentiall­y unwieldy coalition needs to find its sea legs. But it also needs to stand for something besides its own continuity.

In the meantime, there are many, including the leading Zionist NGOs in Israel, taking the position that there are important policy considerat­ions this new government needs to address.

Illegal Palestinia­n constructi­on and the consequent­ial diminishme­nt of the Jewish footprint in Area C is one of the major policy concerns of Zionist groups. There will be a strong interest by NGOs to assure that this and other issues are being addressed and not swept under the rug in the name of avoiding controvers­y.

If the goal was to avoid controvers­y, there would have never been a State of Israel. This government needs to stand for something. Evyatar provides the opportunit­y for the new government to affirm a commitment to Judea and Samaria, to assert its Zionist values, and despite its fragility, to establish priorities, including red lines, for the citizenry to see and understand.

The new government is already at a crossroads of its own creation. It will either show itself to be adept, inclusive, yet wholly committed to the Zionist vision, or it will reveal itself to be a whole that is less than the sum of its parts.

 ?? (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) ?? PEOPLE ENTER the Evyatar outpost.
(Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) PEOPLE ENTER the Evyatar outpost.

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