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(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro'eh on Tuesday canceled a deal he had made with the IDF a day earlier to voluntarily evacuate three caravans at the unauthorized Bnei Adam outpost, backing away from a fight with right-wing activists and settlers at the site who oppose any compromise move.
"I was not willing to fight with them," Ro'eh told The Jerusalem Post as he sat in his office several hours after calling the IDF and the Civil Administration to explain that as a result of opposition from outpost residents, he could not honor the agreement.
A Civil Administration spokesman told the Post that the caravans would be removed shortly, but did not give an exact timeline.
On Monday, scores of border policemen and soldiers together with members of the Civil Administration made a surprise raid on the outpost, located outside of the Adam settlement on a brown hilltop on the edge of the Judean desert.
Established in 2004, it is home to eight families, some with small children, and four single adults who have sought an ecologically friendly lifestyle.
Although it is one of the 23 outposts constructed after March 2001 that Israel has promised the US it would remove, the Civil Administration on Monday only wanted to remove three of the dozen or so structures at the outpost.
The three small, white modular homes were placed at the outpost three months ago, at a cost of NIS 300,000, by Amana, Gush Emunim's settlement arm.
Ro'eh said he had held two meetings with the residents of Bnei Adam to explain that since they themselves were not being evacuated from the outpost, it would be wise to allow the Binyamin Regional Council to save the buildings from destruction, so they could be used elsewhere in Judea and Samaria.
"I think this is not the flag on which to go to war," said Ro'eh. He explained that on Monday he had saved the buildings, seconds before a crane was to destroy them.
"I told them [the Bnei Adam residents] that taking one step backwards here would mean two steps forward later," he said.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday afternoon the outpost residents informed him that they would not accept the arrangement.
As he kneeled on the dirt in front of his modular home fixing a lawn mower, Elad Gottlieb said it was very clear to him why he refused the deal.
"If I do not live here, then [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad will," Elad said.
As he stood in the doorway of his outpost home, wearing IDF fatigues and with a rifle slung over his shoulder, Ariel Cohen said he too believed it would be dangerous to leave.
"From here they will evacuate all of Judea and Samaria," he said.
Around noon on Monday, Cohen and his wife, Hadas, were sitting outside their modular home, drinking coffee, when all of a sudden they saw security personnel converging on the outpost.
"When I saw the tractor, I understood why they were here," said Cohen, who had moved to Bnei Adam from the more established Amona outpost because he wanted to help make a stand in defense of the land.
One member of the Bnei Adam outpost pointed out that it was on state land and that there was no Palestinian village anywhere nearby. The only exception, he said, was a cluster of illegal Beduin structures on an adjacent hilltop that no one seemed in a hurry to remove, in contrast to the Jewish outpost.
He pointed to the surrounding hilltops and said that a settlement sat on each one.
What Bnei Adam did was to help create territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and the more established settlements, he said.
Cohen saw Monday's raid as a "wake-up call" from God that the residents needed to strengthen their presence at the outpost.
When the soldiers came on Monday, he said, he offered no resistance. He obeyed their orders to remove his possessions from his home.
"But I did it very slowly," he said. By the time he had taken out some bags and blankets, the soldiers had already left.
As she sat on the sofa outside her home with her nine-month-old son Eliyahu Menahem on her lap, Bracha Gottlieb said she had been less lucky.
Neither she nor her husband, Eldad, were home. It was her birthday and she was in Jerusalem when she received a phone call from Bnei Adam telling her that the security forces had come.
By the time she came home, all their possessions were scattered in front of the home.
"It was a nice present," she said.
Since Monday, dozens of teens and young adults have arrived at the outpost after receiving text messages and phone calls about the impending destruction of the caravans. One 15-year-old said she had arrived with only the clothes on her back.
On Tuesday, some sat around playing guitar or flute, while others were busy building a new structure.
Pointing to the teens digging and moving rocks, one outpost resident said, "This is our best defense." He said that neither he nor any other resident planned to violently resist security personnel.
"This new construction is our resistance," he said.â€¢