Construction in Beit Arye
Photo: AP
Settlers protest freeze
Photo: AFP
IDF prepares to raze structures as part of settlement freeze's second phase
Judea and Samaria Brigade to head operation in which West Bank communities with illegal structures will be isolated; soldiers will intervene only if violence breaks out. Plan also calls for swift legal action against rioters. Defense minister: No force will be used if settlers obey law. Settler leaders: Plan sinister, Barak war criminal

The IDF Southern Command is formulating a plan for the implementation of the second phase of the West Bank construction moratorium, which will include the razing of illegal structures in Jewish settlements, Ynet learned on Sunday.


The Border Guard, Shin Bet, Judea and Samaria District Police and a special police unit are expected to take part in the operation, aimed at enforcing the cabinet's recent decision to halt construction in the West Bank for a period of 10 months in order to jumpstart peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.


The operation will be headed by the IDF's Judea and Samaria Brigade.


According to the plan, any settlement in which illegal structures are located will be sealed off, and media crews will be prohibited from entering. Traffic to and from nearby settlements will be blocked.


IDF soldiers will not participate in the demolitions themselves, but will intervene should any violence break out. Security forces have also been instructed to prepare for incidents involving live fire, though IDF officials who are drafting the plan have mentioned that there was no concrete intelligence indicating that such a scenario is plausible.


The second phase of the construction freeze also calls for swift legal action against rioting settlers, particularly against those suspected of assaulting security personnel or damaging military equipment.


Ahead of the demolitions, large security forces will be deployed on the understanding that "force paralyzes." The plan also calls for the forces to utilize the element of surprise.


The IDF Spokesperson's Office has announced that Civil Administration officials and the police will be the ones to enforce the temporary freeze in settlements, and not the IDF.


The statement added that the operation orders published Sunday were only a first draft distributed to authorities as part of the IDF's task to police the West Bank.


Clashes in Dolev settlement last week (Photo: Reuters)


Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in response to reports on the IDF's second stage plan for enforcing the West Bank settlement building moratorium that there will be no reason to employ force if the settlers abide by the cabinet's decision.


"The only thing needed from settlement leaders and settlers is to abide by the cabinet's decision regarding the settlement building freeze that will be imposed for a limited time to avoid the need to use force or clashes with the security forces," said a statement issued by the Defense Ministry.


Settler groups were quick to criticize the plan. "This is a military trial against the settler population, and it will trample on its most basic human rights," the Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria stated. "Seeing as the construction freeze is aimed at appeasing the Americans – it should be mentioned that the US government would never resort to such measures against its civilian population. We call on the (Israeli) government to come to its senses, before it loses the right to be called the only democracy in the Middle East."


The Shomron Settlers' Committee said in response, "The war plan formulated by the defense establishment against the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria and against the hesder yeshivas, to which the best IDF soldiers belong, makes Defense Minister Barak a war criminal, with (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's backing.


"Barak is wasting millions (of the taxpayers' shekels) to advance his status among Israel's Left instead of investing in the development of the Galilee, Negev and West Bank," said the committee.


Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika called Barak's plan "sinister," while Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said it constitutes a "declaration of war on the settlers by the Likud-led government."


"The IDF's job is to fight the enemies. Anyone who changes the military' objective is tearing the nation apart and destroying the country," he said.


Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report


First published: 20.12.09, 08:55
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