GUSH ETZION – About two dozen residents of Netiv HaAvot gathered on an access road adjacent to the community to prevent security forces from beginning preparatory ground work ahead of next month’s expected demolition of the unauthorized outpost. The court has accepted Arab claims that a very thin strip of the land that forms the community adjacent to the approved community of Elazar, in Gush Etzion, is privately owned by Arabs from the nearby village of El Khader and ordered the state to demolish the homes by March 4.
Residents sat down in front of bulldozers to prevent the ground work from beginning; as of this writing security forces securing the area had not moved to remove them.
Residents said they received text messages shortly before 7:00 am that bulldozers, tractors and at least one crane were headed for community. They said that in order to prepare for eviction of their community a wide swath of Arab-owned land would have to be destroyed.
“The most absurd thing here is that the state is willing to expropriate all of this land in order to demolish our home instead of expropriating 40 cm in order to approve our homes,” said David Den Heijer, a resident of Netiv Avot.
The beginning of preparatory work came a day after some 60 children from the community met with Knesset Speaker Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein, a long-time supporter of the community and the settlement enterprise in general. The children presented Edelstein with a petition asking the Knesset to block the coming demolition, which the Speaker signed, and added there is a consensus of support inside the Knesset for Israeli communities in Gush Etzion.
Edelstein’s support, however, did little to calm residents’ concerns. One father of six, Matan Yechezkeli, said that many Knesset members have supported the community’s efforts to gain legalisation but have been repeatedly rebuffed by the High Court of Justice.
“There are plenty of legal tools the court could have used to legalize the homes, Yechezkeli told this reporter last November. “Some of the ‘offending’ parts of some of the buildings jut out no more than 40 centimeters onto privately owned Palestinian land. Those aberrations could be fixed with simple construction solutions that would not require demolishing the entire home.
“But the court wouldn’t hear of it,” he said.