IDF, Border Police raze nine outpost structures

Court injunction prevents further demolitions at Ma’aleh Rehavam after Israeli security forces raid small Gush Etzion community.

Settlers remove belongings from razed homes in Gush 370 (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Settlers remove belongings from razed homes in Gush 370
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis issued a temporary injunction on Wednesday afternoon preventing the evacuation and demolition of the Ma’aleh Rehavam outpost after security forces razed nine structures in a surprise raid on the small Gush Etzion hilltop community in the morning.
Ma’aleh Rehavam is included in a longstanding Peace Now petition asking the High Court of Justice to enforce the destruction of six West Bank outposts, built without authorization.
In the past the state has told the court it looked to authorize the outpost, which is adjacent to the Nokdim and Kfar Eldad settlements, because it was built on state land.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said that in the past year, settlers had built additional modular homes in a new section of Ma’aleh Rehavam, and that some of those were on private Palestinian property.
She added, however, that she did not know if the homes that were razed were on state land or on the plots that belonged to Palestinians.
The Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria said only that the structures it demolished were built illegally and that demolition orders had been issued against them.
Although demolition orders had been issued against the outpost in the past, the 35 families who live there thought they no longer applied since they knew the state was looking to authorize the homes. In addition, they believed that if the IDF moved against the outpost, they would know in advance in the context of the court case, as has occurred with other outposts.
Therefore, many residents left for work on Wednesday morning, leaving very few people in the outpost, when a large convoy that included civil administration staff, cranes, border police and soldiers arrived.
Sarah Chaimov, whose home was not destroyed, said she looked out her window and was shocked to see the convoy.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, what is happening,” the young mother told The Jerusalem Post later in the day, as she held her baby in her arms.
Scattered on the hill behind her were piles of rubble where the modular structures had been; four had been homes to families, three were under construction, and two were not used as homes.
She immediately began making phone calls to her husband and to whomever else she could think of.
The outpost’s attorney Amos Fried said phone calls he received from residents led him to believe that the civil administration planned to demolish the entire community.
Within an hour he had filed an emergency brief before the court, which issued its injunction by 4:30 p.m., he said.
The plaintiffs have four days to respond, Fried said. But the injunction stays in effect until the court decides otherwise, Fried said.
Security personnel left the outpost before noon, hours before the injunction was issued. But Fried said he had no way of knowing if they had planned to return later that day or on Thursday.
According to the Sasson Report from 2005, Ma’aleh Rehavam was built without permits in October 2001 with the help of NIS 700,000 from the Construction and Housing and Ministry.
Fried, who entered the case in 2010, said he had argued for two years that the initial orders against the outpost were technically flawed and thus the state cannot move against it.
Police said that Wednesday morning’s operation was carried out peacefully and that no one was arrested.
Right-wing activists held two protests in the capital later in the day.
Jerusalem police arrested three demonstrators in the afternoon who burned tires in the middle of the Begin/Herzl junction, blocking traffic. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.
One of the demonstrators also slashed the tires of a police car on the scene, according to Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben- Ruby. Police opened an investigation.
Police arrested another seven people in the evening after a few dozen people protested across from the Knesset and tried to block the road.
The Bayit Yehudi Knesset faction discussed Ma’aleh Rehavam at its meeting. Party officials said the fate of the outposts and the Levy Report that recommended to authorize them would be discussed in coalition talks, but was not a precondition for entering Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.
A source in the party expressed concern that what happened to Ma’aleh Rehavam could be a message from Netanyahu that he intends to make similar moves with other outposts when his government is formed.
“The evacuation is painful, tragic and immoral,” Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun said. “Still, because things like this happen, Bayit Yehudi has the responsibility to act with all its might and have an influence for the people of Israel.
That is why we were elected to the Knesset – to fight for the Land!” Other party parliamentarians sent out messages to the media about the demolitions.
MK Eli Ben-Dahan said the incident was very serious, given that the new government was likely to approve the Levy Report.
“With a little bit of goodwill, these homes could have been authorized,” MK Orit Struck said.Melanie Lidman, Lahav Harkov, Ben Hartman and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.