Barak helped revoke order barring Migron demolitions

At heated Knesset debate, right-wing MKs attack state attorney representative over procedures during overnight eviction of illegal homes.

September 13, 2011 03:13
4 minute read.
Likud MK Zeev Elkin

Zeev Elkin 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Phone calls made at 3 a.m. to a state prosecutor by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi led to the demolition of three homes at the Migron outpost earlier this month, settler leaders and right-wing politicians learned on Monday.

During a heated debate in front of a subgroup of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, its chairman, MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), raised the question of who had invoked a temporary injunction to stop the demolitions.

Just as cranes were about to take down the three homes at 2:30 a.m. on September 5, settlers received an emergency injunction from the High Court of Justice pending a hearing no later than 1 p.m. that same day.

But within less than two hours, by 4:10 a.m. Judge Neal Hendel who had initially issued the injunction, revoked it.

His sudden shift, after settlers believed they had secured a reprieve has lead in the last week to enormous speculation as to who had pressured him to change his mind.

But in the Knesset on Monday, Osnat Mandel, who directs the department in the State Attorney’s Office that deals with petitions before the High Court of Justice, explained how the revocation happened.

At 3 a.m., she said she had received a call both from Barak and Mizrahi explaining that it would be dangerous to wait.

They were concerned the Border Police, who was present in large force, would be vulnerable to attack if it spent a long time waiting on the outpost, she said.

It was this information that caused Hendel to revoke the injunction, she said.

“But the harm caused to the women and children who were forced out of their homes, that didn’t concern them,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union).

Listening to Mandel, Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Binyamin Regional Council, got so upset, that he walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Almost as if he was in a courtroom, Elkin plied Mandel with questions.

Had she known, he asked, that Minister without portfolio Bennie Begin had been trying to work with the settlers and the Defense Ministry to try and find a way to stave off the demolitions? “I think he might have said something to me in the hallway,” she said, noting his efforts had not been formalized.

Elkin also wanted to know if Mandel had thought at 3 a.m. to notify the cabinet secretary, Tzvi Hauser.

She said “no,” it had not occurred to her. She said maybe it would have been different had the event unfolded during the day.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) charged that Mandel had failed to follow proper procedure by neglecting to notify the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Look who’s in charge here,” retorted Ben-Ari. “Tzvi Hauser is out, Osnat Mandel is in.”

Getting red in the face, he called Mandel a “law-breaker.” In the course of enforcing the law, she broke it, he said.

But Mandel remained calm throughout the discussion, explaining calmly the decision making process.

She also stated clearly the state’s belief, which has been upheld by the High Court of Justice, that the entire outpost of 50 families was illegal.

She noted it was built without a government decision, without an approved master plan and without permits for the homes.

Separately, she said, the outpost is located on private Palestinian land.

Ro’eh said that while it was true the outpost lacked the proper authorization, it was built with the knowledge of many ministries.

He said those who moved there saw themselves as emissaries of the state, and in particular their presence, along with other outposts, helped protect Route 60 from terrorist attacks.

But Mandel insisted the outpost was illegal. She said the state was particularly upset by the construction of three homes at the hilltop community this year, because they were built after an agreement was reached between the state and the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza to relocate the outpost to the nearby settlement of Geva Binyamin (Adam).

Based on a High Court decision this summer, in response to a 2006 petition by Peace Now, the state must now demolish the Migron outpost in March, independent of the completion of any plan to transfer the outpost. Yesh Din, separately had filed a petition against the three homes. The state took down the homes in response to the petition, prior to any final ruling by the court.

Separately, during the debate, settler leaders and right-wing activists complained the civil administration selectively enforced West Bank building laws against Jews, while ignoring illegal Palestinian construction.

Ro’eh said there was a sense the IDF and the state were purposely making life difficult for the settlers in Judea and Samaria, while looking to improve the quality of life for Palestinians.

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