The Civil Administration has completed its first round of inspections of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as part of the government-imposed moratorium on settlement construction, defense officials said Tuesday.
According to authorities, inspectors from the Civil Administration visited the approximately 150 settlements in the West Bank and distributed orders at construction sites where work was being done in violation of the moratorium. In the next round, inspectors will visit such settlements in order to ensure that settlers are complying with orders.
Since the operation began about a month ago, inspectors, accompanied in most cases by Border Police forces, issued 174 stop-work orders in settlements where work had not halted. Five security personnel were injured in recent weeks, and five civil administration officials have received threats, likely from right-wing elements.
"This is just the first stage," one official explained.
"Now begins the tough work which is continuing to visit the settlements to ensure that the stop-work orders are being obeyed."
In order to keep a close eye on the settlements, the Defense Ministry has allocated a budget towards the hiring of 15 new workers by the Civil Administration. Some of the employees will serve as inspectors and others will replace existing employees so that the latter can enforce the moratorium. If the Civil Administration finds a construction site where work is continuing illegally, it has the right, officials said, to confiscate building equipment.
Meanwhile, Yesha Council leaders on Tuesday set up a tent across from Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's office, protesting the government's recently instated 10-month construction freeze in the West Bank.
"We're here to continue our struggle to cancel the freeze, which does not allow a single Jewish home to be built between Afula and Arad, or from Kfar Saba to the Jordan River, where Arabs are free to build freely," said Yesha chairman Danni Dayan.
"We see this as an illegitimate policy, and we will not cooperate with it. We will not give up our quest to build up this land, and [will] make sure as many Jews settle it as possible."
The regional council leaders present on Tuesday will close their offices in the West Bank this Sunday, effectively making Ben Maimon Avenue - located a couple hundred feet from a Gilad Schalit protest tent - their temporary headquarters.
They stressed that their struggle would be a long and complicated one against what they view as an outrageous policy.
"This is a racist decree," head of the Shomron regional council Gershon Mesika said. "If another group of people within the population - Arabs or foreign workers for instance - was affected by a racist decree like this, it would be met with [widespread] outrage."
In agreement with Mesika, South Hevron regional council leader Tzviki Bar-Chai stated: "I expect all regional council leaders to stand against this policy with us," emphasizing that "this is not limited to Judea and Samaria - it's a fight for the entire national home. Today it's us, tomorrow it could be all of Israel."
No Knesset members arrived at the tent on Tuesday, though Yesha officials expect various government representatives to show their support over the course of the week.
"In meetings we've had with Central Command Officer Avi Mizrachi, and with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, it's been made clear that the only person who is happy with this current state of affairs is [Security Minister] Ehud Barak," said Beit Arieh-Ofarim regional council leader Avi Naim.
Naim, as well as his fellow Yesha leaders, also invoked the memory of Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the "thousands of missiles that the entire South region received in return," implying that a similar fate could befall the North should the freeze continue.
"All residents of Tel Aviv should be worried," Naim said.