Jewish settlers (R) scuffle with Israeli police officers near buildings slated for demolition by order of Israel's high court in Beit El.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the state to raze two apartment buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, setting up a showdown between the authorities and the hard core of Israel's ideologically zealous religious Zionist community.
Settlers and security forces held a tense standoff late Tuesday night in Beit El, as they waited for the High Court ruling which effectively sealed the fate of the disputed apartment buildings known as "the House of Draynof."
Hundreds of young adults and activists stood behind steel police barriers, facing the border policemen. Cheers went up from the crowd as activists periodically attempted to break though the barriers.
“This will not end well,” said Beit El council head Shai Alon.
The ruling places Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud faction in a politically tricky situation since it pits them against a key base of support.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu promised to work to authorize the 24 illegal housing units in Beit El, after Border Police violently evacuated scores of activists who were camping out in the half-completed structures before dawn.
“Our stance with regard to the Beit El homes is clear. We oppose their demolition and are working through legal means to prevent this,” Netanyahu said.
He added that the government's position to the High Court of Justice called for the buildings not to be razed given that they have received all the necessary authorizations by the Civil Administration and the Beit El Council.
“We are working to support the settlement enterprise and are doing so in compliance with the law,” he said.
He issued his statement after the Border Police moved into Beit El in a surprise move early Tuesday morning in advance of the anticipated demolition.
Even Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who had visited Beit El late Monday night had no idea that the Border Police planned to station a unit by the buildings.
The contractor began work on the homes in 2010 and the buildings are still under construction. He received permits authorizing the building only last week.
In the interim, the NGO Yesh Din together with the Palestinian land owners of the property, petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the IDF to halt the project and raze the structures.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.