Settlers angry about security cuts

Settlers, right-wing politicians call on Barak, IDF to rescind decision to cut funding for 21 civilian security guards.

February 27, 2013 01:16
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers close off Itamar junction

Soldiers at Itamar settlement 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)

Settlers and right-wing politicians have called on outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the IDF to rescind a decision to cut 21 civilian security guards by March 1, a move which impacts seven West Bank settlements, including the cities of Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel.

The move comes in the midst of heightened tensions in the West Bank with Palestinians.

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Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel has threatened to petition the High Court of Justice on the matter.

Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, has also lobbied Barak and the IDF against the budget cut, said his spokesman, Yigal Delmonti.

Last year, the IDF funded 210 civilian security guards, who, along with soldiers, help secure around 150 Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, said Delmonti. This year, he said, the IDF did not increase funds for the security guards, a move which effectively acted as a budget cut, Delmonti said.

In Ariel, the municipality dealt with the budget cut by deciding to close the back gate, which exits onto to Route 60.

On Tuesday, MK Danny Danon (Likud) wrote a letter to Barak and urged him to restore the funding for security guards.

“We’re talking about a central passageway in Judea and Samaria, that thousands pass through every day,” Danon said. “This would harm the quality of life for residents of Judea and Samaria, the students of Ariel University and visitors to the city.”

Delmonti said that students at Ariel University, located by the back gate, were considering holding a demonstration against the gate’s closure.

Shlomo Vaknin, who is in charge of security for the council, said that those who drive on Route 60 would now be forced to travel down a more dangerous and circuitous road in order to access the city from the main gate. He added that, ironically, it was the IDF which initially insisted on opening a back gate for precisely this security reason.

Security sources said the IDF had nothing to do with the decision to close the gate. The sources said the city could have handled the budget cut in a number of ways, and chose this path, noting that the IDF advised against it.

But Eli Novosky, who is in charge of security for Ariel, said that line of argument made no sense. The IDF had initially manned that gate, but in recent years, had switched to a civilian guard while assuring the city that security would not be impacted. Now, he said, the IDF was cutting out funding to guard the gate.

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