Barak: IDF won't use force if settlers comply

Barak force wont be ne

gate protest settlement freeze 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
gate protest settlement freeze 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Security personnel will not be required to use force against settlers if the government-imposed moratorium on home construction is observed, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday after the media, including The Jerusalem Post, exposed the IDF's plan that calls for the use of "paralyzing force" to enforce the freeze if needed. The army released a statement saying that the plan, leaked to the press by settlers, was a first draft and that according to the final draft, the Border Police and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria - not the IDF - would handle demolitions and evacuations of homes illegally built during the 10-month freeze. OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni is investigating whether a mole within the IDF leaked the document to the settlers. According to one military source, only a small number of security officials were shown the draft. These officials then made comments and sent them back to the Central Command, which wrote a new draft and disseminated it to relevant units. The 17-page document on which the Post reported Sunday morning outlines military orders that had been drawn up by the Central Command after the cabinet decided late last month to impose a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. The military plan calls for the deployment of aerial drones to photograph illegal construction, and to create closed military zones to keep out protesters and reporters during demolitions of illegal buildings. It also said that the IDF could use commando units and cellphone-jamming equipment to enforce the freeze. Under the moratorium, settlers and contractors working on projects in which the foundations had not been finished must stop work for 10 months. But many settlers have vowed to continue building anyway. The IDF said that in the final draft of the order the air force was not slated to participate in the operation. It said that the civil administration would use privately owned planes rented by the Defense Ministry to photograph settlements to track illegal construction. "Settlement leaders and settlers are required only to heed the government's decision to impose a moratorium for a given period of time on new construction," Barak said in a statement released by his office. "This way, there will be no reason to use force or create friction with security forces. "We expect settler leaders to heed government decisions and allow the IDF to do what it was established to do - prepare for war." The Public Security Ministry was caught off guard by the revelation of the IDF's plan. A source from the ministry told the Post that Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) was surprised when he read the media reports of the army's plan to include the Israel Police's Counterterrorism Unit (YAMAM) in any enforcement operation. "The minister has made arrangements for the Border Police and Judea and Samaria Police to take part in enforcement, but no plans were made for the Counterterrorism police," the source said. In a statement sent to the media on Sunday morning, Aharonovitch firmly denied agreeing to send the Counterterrorism Unit to act against construction violations. "According to publication of an internal IDF document, the Counterterrorism Unit is to take part in the enforcement. I would like to stress that there is no prior arrangement for this unit's involvement. [Such an arrangement] is not in line with arrangements involving the public security minister," he said. After Aharonovitch's statement, the IDF Spokesman's Office issued a statement reiterating that the published plan was only a first draft. Aharonovitch has in the past stated that he did not plan on reinforcing the Judea and Samaria Police with officers from other districts, because this could interfere with crime-fighting operations. Lawmakers and community leaders on the Right came out strongly against the document. "It's an outrageous document that teaches us that the Likud government has declared a war against the settlers," MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said. Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely accused Barak (Labor) of "unbridled enthusiasm about freezing construction in Judea and Samaria," which she said had "completely confused him as to the real enemies of the State of Israel." The decision to enforce the freeze "as though it were a military operation, by marking residents as enemies, is unreasonable," Hotovely added, calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to "get involved in the issue immediately, and cancel this disproportionate deployment." Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that he was surprised by the order. "This is, quite simply, the deployment for a military operation against an enemy," he said. "This is not the way to enforce a government decision applying to citizens in a democratic state." Attorney Mordechai Mintzer, one of the lawyers who petitioned against the construction freeze in the settlements, filed a new request on Sunday for an interim injunction after learning about the army's plans for enforcing the freeze. Mintzer told the High Court of Justice that the discovery that the army intended to start demolishing illegal construction by settlers two weeks after it received the stop-work orders added a new urgency to the interim injunction. According to Mintzer, it is not justified to start demolishing construction before the army sets up the appeal and compensation apparatus that are mentioned in the military order. He wrote that his clients, Elazar and Vered Shapira, began laying the foundation of their new home in Elkana, east of Rosh Ha'ayin, but did not complete it before receiving the order. Now they stand to have the part that they built demolished without having the opportunity to appeal against the action, he said. Dan Izenberg and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.•