Netanyahu at cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to work to authorize 24 illegal housing units in Beit El, after Border Police violently evacuated scores of activists who were camping out in the half-completed structures early Tuesday morning.
“Our stance with regard to the Beit El homes is clear. We oppose their demolition and are working through legal means to prevent this,” Netanyahu said.
He added that the government's position to the High Court of Justice would call for the buildings not to be razed given that they have received all the necessary authorizations by the Civil Administration and the Beit El Council.
“We are working to support the settlement enterprise and are doing so in compliance with the law,” he said.
He issued his statement after the Border Police moved into Beit El in a surprise move early Tuesday morning in advance of the anticipated demolition of two apartment buildings with 24 housing units, that were initially built without the necessary permits.
Even Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who had visited Beit El late Monday night had no idea that the Border Police planned to station a unit by the buildings.
The contractor began work on the homes in 2010 and the buildings are still under construction. He received permits authorizing the building only last week.
In the interim, the NGO Yesh Din together with the Palestinian land owners of the property, petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the IDF to halt the project and raze the structures.
In June, the HCJ ordered the buildings to be taken down by the end of July because they lacked the necessary permits. The ruling did not address the issue of Palestinian land ownership because the lots in questions were seized by the state in 1979 under a legal procedure that was acceptable at that time, even though it has since been discontinued.
The HCJ in its June ruling said that the issue was not whether or not the buildings could be approved, but rather that they were constructed illegally.
It is now in the process of hearing final appeals on the mater and another court ruling on the matter is pending.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said he opposed the demolition of the homes and has taken legal steps to help prevent it.
“I spoke with Bayit Yehudi ministers yesterday and told them that we [the IDF] would not act before a High Court of Justice ruling. [However] we will act in accordance with the law and any Supreme Court decisions,” Ya’alon said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he welcomed Netanyahu’s pledge to oppose the demotion of the buildings. He had spoken with Netanyahu prior to the prime minister’s departure for Cyprus early in the morning and had asked him to intervene.
“We’re looking for action, not words,” said Bennett, as he took credit for Netanyahu’s response.
Earlier in the morning, Bennett noted that, according to the Hebrew calendar, the Border Police actions occurred almost ten years to the day from the start of the evacuation of 21 Gaza settlements.
“Someone forgot that this time, ten years after the Disengagement, the national camp is powerful, both politically and publicly,” Bennett said.
“The time has come for the nationalistic government to execute the ideology for which it was elected, rather than go the way of the Left,” Bennett said.
Yisrael Beytenu Party head Avigdor Liberman said he agreed with Bennett. Lieberman called on Bennett to leave the coalition and to join him in the opposition, so that together they could create a new government devoted to construction rather then demolition.
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich said that as far as he was concerned this government was done.
“From my perspective you can already end this current Knesset session,” he said.
Smotrich explained that in the past few days there had been intense discussions within the coalition to prevent the demolition of the Beit El buildings.
Ya’alon, he said, had promised not to move against the buildings.
The Border Police actions early Tuesday morning violated that promise, he said.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said he did not understand why Ya’alon violated his pledge.
The violence that followed, he said, was “inexcusable” and a “serious mistake.”
Ya’alon defended his action on Twitter, stating that his support of the settlement enterprise was well known.
“But those who think that I will break the law are mistaken. I won’t lend a hand to lawlessness.”