Beit Arye settlement 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
As he rolled up the sleeve of his shirt to show his bruised arm, Avi Na'im, who heads the Beit Arye-Ofarim Council, told reporters that he did not consider himself to be an activist, let alone a radical one.
So no one was more surprised than Na'im when police arrested him on Wednesday morning as he stood with fellow residents of Beit Arye, trying to bar civil administration inspectors from entering their settlement.
The tall, clean-shaven politician said that he and his community prided themselves on being law-abiding.
"Just last month I personally brought six people to court for building violations," said Na'im.
A member of the Likud, Na'im has long considered himself a representative of the moderate settlers, and at times had attacked what he considered to be the more extreme views of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (the Yesha Council).
His mixed secular-religious community, located 3.8 kilometers over the pre-1967 border, close to Ben-Gurion Airport, is within the "consensus" and within the boundaries of the security barrier, said Naim.
"I'm [the one] they're fighting with?" he asked.
"Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] was here three days before the election," he added. "He picked this settlement as a symbol" right before people headed to the polls.
Still, like all settlements in Judea and Samaria, Beit Arye has supported the Yesha Council's decision to ban civil administration inspectors from enforcing the IDF edict, issued last week, to stop construction projects whose foundations were not yet laid.
On Wednesday morning, when the inspectors arrived at Beit Arye, Na'im was already in his office. Upon hearing of the ruckus as the gate, where residents had blocked the inspectors, he headed out to the site.
"I was standing to the side," he said. "I told them [the inspectors] not to enter and they arrested me," said Na'im.
A video shot by settlers and distributed to the media showed the police pushing and prodding Na'im. They also injured the settlement's security chief, Bnaya Sharavi, in the leg. He can be seen in the video lying on the ground, writhing in pain.
Police then confiscated the security vehicle, said Na'im, adding that by late afternoon they had yet to return it, thereby leaving his community without proper protection.
A Judea and Samaria Police spokesman said that the vehicle had been used to block the path of the civil administration.
"During the incident, Sharavi held on to the leg of a police officer and was injured in the process," he said.
But Naim said that it was the police who had been "very violent."
"They pushed me into the jeep and drove away while half my body was still handing out of the back door," he said. As they moved away, an officer sat on top of him, he said.
Police said Na'im had been arrested after leading residents of Beit Arye in an illegal effort to block the path of civil administration officials.
The inspectors did eventually enter the settlement, but it was unclear whether any work was stopped.
"During the deployment of forces to Beit Arye, the road was blocked by the head of the regional council [Na'im], additional protesters and a number of vehicles. Requests by police for those blocking the path to accompany them away from the road went unheeded," Judea and Samaria Police said in a statement. "Police therefore had to make the arrests."
Naim requested and received medical treatment following his arrest, police said, adding that he had been taken to the hospital after feeling unwell.
"At the end of his stay in the hospital, he will be invited in for questioning by officers at the Binyamin police station," a police spokesman said.
Upon Na'im's release, he headed to Efrat to attend an emergency meeting of the Yesha Council, where he was greeted with applause.
Na'im told reporters he blamed Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu for the morning's incident, but what hurt him most was the prime minister's actions.
"The physical blows were from Barak, but the blows to heart were from Bibi," he said.