Civil Administration issues injunctions

Tourism Minister Well

The Civil Administration moved swiftly over the weekend to distribute injunctions to settler leaders which immediately suspended for 10 months all new Jewish construction projects in the West Bank that have not broken ground. According to the Civil Administration, the injunctions were handed out to 22 out of the 24 local and regional council heads in Judea and Samaria. The remaining two will be given out on Sunday. In protest, Beit El Local Council head Moshe Rosenbaum on Friday ripped up the injunction as he stood in front of the Civil Administration official and said that it was an "illegal document." Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman plans to file a petition before the High Court of Justice early this week questioning the injunction's legality. When he received a call from the Civil Administration Friday an hour before the start of Shabbat asking where they could find him to deliver the injunction, a startled Nachman responded, "What is the rush?" Speaking to The Jerusalem Post Nachman ridiculed the haste with which the injunctions were delivered. "What is this, the start of the Yom Kippur War?" he said. The injunctions follow a Security Cabinet decision Wednesday to limit construction work in the settlements for the next ten months to the 3,000 housing units for which foundations have already been laid and work is underway. To properly record which settlement construction projects have begun and which have not, the IDF flew over Judea and Samaria on Friday and took aerial photographs of the settlements. The only exceptions to the injunction are 28 educational and public institutions which Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized on Thursday, even as he instructed OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi Thursday night to sign an edict for the most sweeping crack-down on Jewish West Bank construction in the history of the settlement movement. Among other things it restricts the authority of settler leaders, and moves the issuance of construction permits from their purview to that of the civil administration. Both Nachman and Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein told The Jerusalem Post they were concerned that the measures could also prevent expansions to existing apartments and homes. Goldstein added that it could also stop work on roads, sewage and infrastructure. "It stops everything," he said, and added that the measures gives too much power to the Civil Administration. "It returns military control to Judea and Samaria," said Goldstein. Goldstein said he was particularly upset that such a move would come from a right-wing government. "It is unacceptable. We are going to fight it any way we can," said Goldstein. He and Nachman were among a number of Likud settler leaders who met with Likud Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein on Friday to discuss measures to rescind the injunctions and mitigate its harm. In particular, they said, they were concerned about the fate of sewage and water projects, and demanded just compensation for contractors and homeowners whose projects were now frozen. Edelstein, who opposes the move, warned that it could cost the government billions in compensation. "What we have to look for now is the proper way to exit the situation," said Edelstein. To protest the measure, the Tourism Ministry will continue to develop tourist sites in Judea and Samaria, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Beiteinu) said Saturday. The ministry plans to invest resources in such locations as "the stalagmite cave in Ariel, the Herodion in Gush Etzion and Qasr al-Yahud near Ma'aleh Adumim." Misezhnikov, speaking at a cultural event at Holon Theater, said that "the agreement to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria created an important diplomatic achievement for Israel." He added that Israel Beiteinu would only support the moratorium as long as it did not include construction of public buildings in settlements or construction in Jerusalem. Speaking at the same event, Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon said that he supported the freeze and would ensure that his party would oversee its implementation. "This is a historic move and it must be supported. All of Labor must stand behind the move," he said. The building freeze is designed to sway the Palestinians to resume peace talks dormant since last spring, when former prime minister Ehud Olmert left office. But Palestinians have been cool to the gesture, saying all Jewish construction in the West Bank must be halted before talks continue. In an interview with Channel 2 on Saturday night Likud Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the ball was now in the Palestinians court. If they did not return to the negotiating table, the cabinet may consider rescinding the moratorium earlier than the ten month time-table, possibly even after two months, he said. Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post Staff and AP contributed to this report.