E1 area linking Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim 370.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Settlers on Tuesday morning built two small fledgling West Bank outposts in response to the murder of three teenagers, who were abducted by Hamas and whose bodies were found under a pile of rocks outside Hebron 18 days later.
Some 30 to 40 settlers pitched blue tents on a hilltop in the unbuilt E1 area of the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. A plan to build thousands of homes there approved by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, but every subsequent government has frozen the project due to international pressure. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he would advance E1 construction, but halted the plans again.
In Monday night’s cabinet meeting, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan suggested that the government build more Israeli homes in Hebron, near where the teens were murdered, and in Gush Etzion, where they studied. On Tuesday morning, however, settlers decided not to wait for the government and they headed up to an area of E1 below the police station.
“This is our response to the terrible murder of our young teens,” said Ma’aleh Adumim resident Eli Dordek.
“The Arabs think they can scare us or make us leave,” said Dordek, adding that they were mistaken. “This is our way of expressing our connection to the Land of Israel.
This place has already been agreed upon by the government. There are plans that are already agreed on. We would like to settle and build here.
Now is a good time to do that,” he said. The murder of the three teens has stirred a lot of emotions. “We hope to capture that energy and put it to positive use,” Dordek said.
MK Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) visited the outpost soon after, saying that “strengthening Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is the appropriate Zionist response to terrorism.
“In a place where life was cut off, we will build new life,” he added.
“The murderers wanted to weaken us and violate our right to exist in this land, specifically in Judea and Samaria… We need to act and build this settlement in memory of the boys.”
Kalfa called for the government to authorize the outpost and not be afraid of American criticism.
Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman, also of Bayit Yehudi, said “the government has to give an appropriate Zionist response by taking out Hamas and starting massive construction in all of Israel and connecting Judea and Samaria to Jerusalem by building in E1, Gush Etzion and other places.”
Settlers in Gush Etzion, led by the Women in Green NGO, began setting up an outpost on state land on a hill called Givat Oz, not far from the Gush Etzion junction. Nadia Matar of Women in Green said activists had taken over an abandoned farm house.
“We are now refurbishing, cleaning and renovating it,” she said. She added that a generator is providing them with electricity. They already have families who want to move in, Matar said.
“This is a symbolic act,” she said. “It symbolizes what the government should do, which is apply Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria.”
That application of sovereignty should begin with Gush Etzion, Matar continued. She said that the outpost itself will be called Givat Oz Ve’Gaon, to include the first letters of the first names of the three teens; Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.
Separately, settlers set up a protest tent close to the Halhoul junction, north of Hebron, where the bodies of the three teens were found on Monday. They called on the government to take responsibility for providing security for the residents of Judea and Samaria. Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl called on the government to annex his region to Israel in response to the murders and barring that, to authorize building, particularly a new project in an area called Gevaot.
He focused on Gevaot because he, like his immediate predecessor, wanted to turn the forested area of the Alon Shvut settlement into a new town of 5,000 homes. The government advanced plans for 600 homes for the area, which now houses a school, but then froze the project, Perl said.
“The answer to terrorism has to be to strengthen the settlement enterprise,” he said.