Residents of Judea and Samaria have set up a tent city to protest the anticipated building demolitions set to take place in the Jewish community of Beit El, and the de facto building freeze they say is being exerted over the entire area.
The issues could threaten an already fragile government coalition.
Early Tuesday morning, Border Guard Police officers evicted protesters from two half-built apartment buildings that once completed were to have 24 housing units. At least 50 arrests were made in the wee hours before dawn, with some protesters being dragged away.
The Draynoff Buildings, as they are called, had already received the necessary permits from the Civil Administration and the Beit El Council, but were facing demolition orders from Israel’s High Court of Justice because their initial construction began without permits.
“Our stance with regard to the Beit El homes is clear,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a statement during the day. “We oppose their demolition and we are working through legal means to prevent this.”
Nevertheless, as the matter stands now, the area around the buildings has been declared a closed military zone until August 2, and Border Guard Police officers have moved into the buildings in order to prevent Beit El residents from doing so and regaining control.
By nightfall Tuesday, residents of Judea and Samaria had set up a tent city near the community in solidarity with the Beit El residents.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was expected to eventually visit the site. Her party chairman and Israel’s Education Minister, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who spent time at the site, condemned the court’s decision to demolish the buildings and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s decision to send in the troops.
Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Jerusalem Affairs MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) agreed, pointing out that not long ago Netanyahu had vowed to build 300 new homes in Beit El. “This is the time to build, and not destroy,” he said.
MK Oren Hazen and numerous other Knesset members and politicians met for most of the day with community leaders in Beit El.
“This is exactly the reason we did not join the government,” commented Yisrael Beytenu chairman and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman.
“Already during coalition talks Prime Minister Netanyahu did not agree to our conditions that he commit to building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. I therefore call upon Minister Bennett and all of Bayit Yehudi to join me and Yisrael Beytenu in the Opposition – so that afterwards we can establish a true nationalist government that engages in building and not in destroying.”
Given the deep and bitter disappointment exhibited Tuesday by Bayit Yehudi party members, colleague MK Moti Yogev warned the prime minister’s slim coalition of 61 could indeed be facing a real crisis over the issue.
Commented party colleague MK Nissan Slomiansky, chairman of the Knesset Constitution and Law committee: “I find the timing of the eviction puzzling, given the fact that the buildings are being authorized.”
And as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) told reporters with ire: “On the day marking a decade since the Disengagement, the defense minister decides to send security forces, under the cover of darkness, to Beit El.
“All of this, despite what he promised me, and despite what I then passed along to the residents of the place.”
Hana Levi Julian