Settlers drive building inspectors away
Dozens of Kiryat Arba residents confront Civil Administration inspectors arriving to halt construction works in Jewish settlement, force them to leave. Defense Minister Barak tours area, says 'government decisions must be implemented, and this one will be fully enforced'
Among the protestors was Kiryat Arba Council head Malachi Levinger, who said, "We would like them to disappear to where they came from." Levinger added that "A group of 15 people arrived here. They stood in the area for nearly an hour, and when they realized that we won't allow them to work, they left shamefacedly. Here the works continue even more vigorously."
Right-wing activist Baruch Marzel concluded, "It was a great victory for us. At first they were planning to bring in a tractor, and we began shouting at them, 'Racist people, take off the uniform you are wearing.' At a certain stage they began evaluating the situation and I heard the division commander say that Kiryat Arba is not Tekoa and that they can't arrive with such a force.
"We hope we have conveyed the message that this is how the racist inspectors must be dealt with following Bibi Netanyahu's decrees. If they are so smart, let's see them implement it in Umm al-Fahm or the nearly village."
Settlers surround Civil Administration vehicle (Photo: Eli Rosenfeld)
The Kiryat Arab residents were trying to prevent the evacuation of building materials in a local construction site. "There are only few passive comments. People here are crying for their homes," the council head said.
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir also arrived at the community. "We have begun chanting and blocking them with our bodies," he said. "We shouted at them, 'You are racist! Look at the amount of illegal Arab construction. You haven't issued one order.' The IDF is the Israel Defense Forces, not the anti-Israel forces."
Gush Etzion Council head Shaul Goldstein was making his way at the time to the Har Gilo settlement in order to try to prevent the building instructors from entering the community.
Goldstein told Ynet, "I heard the inspectors were supposed to come here and I will definitely stop try to delay their entry. The message I would like to convey to the ministers and government is that their decision to freeze construction is as severe, in our eyes, as the decision to evacuate Gush Katif. This is an irreversible move which may badly damage the Jewish settlement in the area.
"I would like to remind them of their promises before the elections. They should open their eyes. I would also like to tell the inspectors that this job is for Peace Now snitches, not for people holding official positions in the State of Israel. They are invited to sit down, see the community and talk, rather than come to the area like a group of informers."
'Trying to disrupt freeze'
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan told Ynet, "All red lines have been crossed here. We are engaging in a serious battle against the decision. The resistance is definitely planned.
"Not only will we not cooperate, we will also exert efforts to disrupt the freeze. One of the ways is disrupting the inspectors' entry into the communities, without violence of course. This situation in which reserve forces are recruited to fight young couples building their homes is stooping to the lowest level."
The Yesha Council called on all residents to report any movement by inspectors in their area in order to prevent them from entering the communities.
"The Yesha Council supports the residents and council heads stopping inspectors from entering their communities," the Council said in a statement. "We call on all residents to report of any movement by an inspection team towards the communities and to prevent without violence their entry into the community to enforce this unethical and anti-Zionist freeze order."
Barak visits Judea and Samaria Division (Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
On Monday, Civil Administration inspectors encountered several places in which building freeze orders were violated. In five cases, they decided to confiscate construction material, including in Ariel, and trucks were towed.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the Judea and Samaria Division on Tuesday morning, spoke to reserve soldiers stationed in the area and held a discussion on ways to implement the government's policy in regards to building starts in the area.
"I am here to see the activity being taken to implement the government's decision on suspending new construction in the Judea and Samaria for 10 months. The IDF, and particularly the administration systems, the police and Border Guard, are preparing to ensure that this decision is implemented," he clarified.
He stressed that "government decisions must be implemented and this one will be fully enforced in a way that will guarantee a dialogue with the settlers. The Judea and Samaria leadership is a responsible, patriotic and Zionist leadership, which has passed many tests. I hope and believe that we will pass this test as well, implementing the government's decision."
The discussion held by the defense minister was attended by Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Major-General Benny Gantz, Central Command chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi, Judea and Samaria District Police Commander Hagai Dotan, Coordinator of the Government's Activities in the Territories Major-General Eitan Dangot, head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, representatives of the defense establishment and other IDF commanders.
Herzog calls off meeting with settler leader
Meanwhile Sunday, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog called off a meeting with Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, who tore up the settlement freeze order in front of the cameras.
According to Herzog, "Mesika's act as an elected representative undermines Israel's foundation as a democratic state."
Herzog and Mesika were scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the council's affairs. The minister called off the meeting following the council head's declaration that he would not honor the cabinet's decision to freeze construction in settlements for 10 months.
"Tearing up the freeze order is an act of defiance against the State of Israel's legitimate and elected ruling authority," Herzog said. "There is fear that incitement and an escalation in the opposition to the government's decision, among extreme right-wing elements backed by elected representatives, will lead to a slippery slope whose outcomes cannot be predicted in advance."
He added that "as a minister in the government and an elected representative, who cares about the situation of all of Israel's citizens, it's clear to me that such actions could first and foremost damage those who seek to leave the settlement blocs under Israel's sovereignty in the permanent agreement."
The minister went on to explain why he supported the construction freeze. "My argument is that with all the pain involved, the move accepted is a significant strategic step and a clear Israeli interest. There is a real chance to create a new regional reality in the Middle East."
Tal Rabinovsky, Hanan Greenberg and Roni Sofer contributed to this report