Settlers to High Court: Stop sealing of El Matan synagogue

Settlers claim outpost is neighborhood of Ma’aleh Shomron, Peace Now states it is located outside the settlement’s legally recognized borders.

October 6, 2010 03:16
4 minute read.
THE EL MATAN outpost’s synagogue was built without the proper authorization, the justices said.

El Matan synagogue 311. (photo credit: Gur Dotan)

Settlers lobbied the government and appealed to the High Court of Justice Tuesday to stop the state from holding to its pledge to seal a small synagogue in the El Matan outpost, located in the Samaria region of the West Bank, within the next 48 hours.

Activists warned that they would flock to the outpost to prevent any military attempts to harm the synagogue.

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High Court: Seal illegal West Bank synagogue
'Settler homes in W. Bank may be razed'

“We will block with our bodies any destructive force that the state sends [against the synagogue],” the activists stated in a message they sent to the media.

Referencing the violent clashes between settlers and security forces at the Amona outpost in 2006, the activists stated, “We are not afraid of a second Amona.”

The warnings come at a sensitive time in the peace process, when the international community is pressuring Israel to halt settlement construction. It also follows Monday’s incident in Gush Etzion in which Jewish vandals allegedly set fire to a mosque as retribution for governmental actions against Jewish building in the West Bank.

Should the synagogue be sealed, security forces will be on the lookout for a potential escalation in confrontations with right-wing elements in the West Bank, a security source told The Jerusalem Post.

“Every time there is an incident involving a decision to demolish structures, or even when there is diplomatic development, there is an expectation of a ‘price tag’ policy and disturbances,” the source said. “This would also be the case should the synagogue be sealed.”

But Samaria Citizens’ Committee chairman Benny Katzover, whose grassroots organization helped lead the battle on behalf of the synagogue, said that at present, most activists’ efforts were split between political lobbying and judicial moves.

In May 2009, the group Yesh Din filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to halt construction of the synagogue, which it stated lacked the proper permits.

Settlers acknowledge that the synagogue is not permitted, but have argued that is it constructed according to area zoning regulations and that only politics has prevented its authorization.

According to Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard, the state said it would seal the synagogue even though the court case is ongoing, because settlers defied court orders to halt construction.

Settlers have argued that the state has selectively gone after the synagogue while not similarly sealing two area mosques, which settlers say equally lack the proper permits.

In a bid to halt the building of the mosques, the group Regavim has filed a petition against them.

On Tuesday, after reports that military vehicles were in the area of El Matan and could be moving against the synagogue, the synagogue’s attorney Yitzhak Bam filed an emergency appeal to the High Court.

He asked that settlers be given the same rights as the Palestinians, and specifically that they be allowed to have a hearing like the one granted to the Palestinians in the mosque case, before any action was taken against the synagogue.

The state has until 9 a.m.

on Wednesday morning to respond to his petition.

Likud MK Danny Danon urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to intervene to prevent either the sealing or demolition of the synagogue.

“I would appreciate your personal intervention to find a solution and halt unnecessary destruction,” said Danon in the letter.

He further accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of having refused to authorize the structure for political reasons.

As of press time, Netanyahu had yet to respond.

The synagogue services the 11 families and a number of single adults who live in the El Matan outpost, which was constructed in 2002. Settlers claim that the outpost is a neighborhood of the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement, while Peace Now states that it is located just outside the settlement’s legally recognized borders.

Separately, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria distributed demolition orders on Tuesday at a fledgling outpost, Ramat Migron, which is located in the Binyamin region, just outside of the larger and more established outpost of Migron.

At present, there are five makeshift structures on the side of the West Bank hilltop. Three are living quarters for single adults and a family, one is used as a kitchen, and the fifth is used as a chicken coop.

A verbal confrontation between settlers and IDF civil administration officials developed, during which activists punctured a tire of a vehicle belonging to civil administration staff. There were no arrests and no physical clashes during the incident.

In a statement to the media, settlers said that no military order would prevent them from settling the land and bringing divine redemption to it.

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