Protesters demanded that the government halt the pending demolition of nine stone homes in the Ofra settlement and 40 modular ones in the Amona outpost.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Setter leaders at a Jerusalem rally on Tuesday vowed to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government unless it retroactively legalizes some 2,000 unauthorized homes in West Bank settlement and outposts.
“If the prime minister doesn’t make the right decision, his government won’t survive,” said Avi Ro’eh who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria.
“Take responsibility and let us know clearly that the Jewish people will stay in Judea and Samaria,” Ro’eh said.
He noted that although it was almost the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day war, Israel still acted as a “guest” in the territory that it won.
Beit Aryeh Council head Avi Naim urged the public not to dismiss this purely as a settlement issue.
“This is a battle for all of Israel," Naim said.
Protestors rallied in an empty stone plaza next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office during the weekly government meeting.
They demanded that the government halt the pending demolition of nine stone homes in the Ofra settlement and 40 modular ones in the Amona outpost.
“Netanyahu has to say clearly, here and now, I am stopping this,” Ro’eh said.
The High Court of Justice has ordered the demolition of the homes, because they were built without permits on private Palestinian property.
Right-wing politicians and settlers fear the same fate awaits some 2,000 unauthorized homes in Judea and Samaria, unless the Knesset passes a law to legislate the structures.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan warned that a government that would allow that kind of destruction, “can’t continue to exist.”
The Ofra settlement, of some 3,200 residents, feels particularly vulnerable. Although it was approved by the government and is considered a legal Israeli community, many of its homes are unauthorized.
Their legal status is tenuous, because they were built on private Palestinian property, but at a time when such construction was viewed as acceptable.
The community has therefore a stand against the HCJ ruling with regard to the demolition of nine homes in their community. At the rally, they held signs asking the government to retroactively legalize all 2,000 homes, including theirs.
The issue of the homes has created tension within the coalition both against the prime minister and between his Likud party and the Bayit Yehudi.
Ayelet Shaked promises Ofra won't be evacuated
Upon hearing of the rally, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) spontaneously left the meeting to speak to the protestors.
“I promise you have elected officials who are looking out for the settlements and Ofra. You have people you can trust,” said Shaked.
“Ofra is a large settlement that the government built. There is no difference between Ofra and Ra'anana and any other community in Israel,” she said to applause.
“I can promise you that we are dong everything to authorize (the homes). We are working day and night to solve the problem,” Shaked said.
She recalled the violent demolition of nine stone homes in the Amona outpost in 2006, when a border police cavalry unit on horseback went against activists.
“We won’t see the cavalry in Ofra,” Shaked pledged.
Protestors yelled out, “What about Amona?”
But she was silent on the issue of the small community that borders Ofra, and which was not approved by the government.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett sent the protestors a note in which he promised to visit Ofra within a few weeks.