In the wake of Sunday's High Court of Justice decision to halt construction in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, settler groups set up a protest tent near the site.
Hundreds of settlers and their supporters were expected to come to Beit El on Monday to join the protest against the construction freeze of the so-called Draynoff buildings, named for the contractor who built them, which have 24 housings. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was also expected be present.
Sunday night, in contradiction with last week's decision of the subcommittee for settlement in the IDF's Civil Administration, the High Court ordered an immediate halt to the preparation and development of the area until deliberations are held in early August.
The decision raised the ire of local settler leaders. "As observant Jews, along with the legal procedures, we turn in prayer to God to have mercy on his children and do what's right for the people of Israel," said Shay Alon, head of the Beit El council.
The High Court's decision, issued by Justice Anat Baron, was made following an urgent petition filed by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group providing legal assistance to citizens of the Palestinian Territories.
"These directives are designed in accordance with its stated mission, to try and give a seal of approval to illegal building on private land, without permits and in violation of administrative orders," reads the petition regarding the approval of the Drayonff complex by the Civil Administration. "The acceleration of the program was clearly in bad faith, contrary to all basic rules of planning, and a head-on violation of domestic and international law, in an attempt to save the houses."
Settlers promised to stop tractors and bulldozers with their bodies in the event they come to fulfill the court's decision to demolish the pair of houses before the end of July.
Announcements published in Shabbat pamphlets distributed by the Yesha Council invited the general public to come to Beit El and take part in its activities. The Draynoff controversy comes after reports of an unofficial settlement freeze, implemented recently by the government, that was harshly condemned by settler leaders and right-wing MKs.
Last week, council leader Alon criticized the High Court's intervention on the issue, which, according to him, should be decided at the municipal level. "These houses are located within Beit El's jurisdiction," he said. "The High Court ruled that these houses will be demolished in one week's time and we're asking, since when does the High Court intervene within municipal boundaries? Why destroy only to build once again?"
Alon added, "This is part of the democracy we have that allows us to fight and say to all the people of Israel that something absurd is happening, there is protest, there is exploitation. It's illogical that the High Court in all other areas doesn't intervene in municipal jurisdictions, and suddenly here it is trampling with a heavy hand, it is violating the legislature, it is violating the rule of right, saying, I am the landlord here!"
The Beit El local council stated that "the Civil Administration validated the construction program of the Draynoff houses and we published the validation as required. Accordingly, the Council issued a building permit at the end of last week already, that was transmitted to the houses and therefore the temporary order issued today has no meaning as the building permit was issued in advance. The Council's intention is to turn to the Civil Administrator to cancel the demolition order due to the building permits given."