IDF to publish revised freeze order next week

IDF to publish revised b

The army will issue a revised order regarding the building freeze in the Jewish settlements and illegal outposts in the West Bank next week, the Defense Ministry's legal adviser told the Knesset Law Committee on Monday. The new order will provide remedies for some of the complaints raised by settlers regarding the original military order issued by OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi on November 26, 2009, calling for a 10-month freeze on construction of all housing regarding which the foundations had not yet been laid. One of the main complaints of the settlers, a fault which has also been underlined by the Supreme Court in petitions against the military order, concerns the lack of clear procedures for providing compensation and hearing complaints from settlers who have suffered, or claim to have suffered, economic injury due to the freeze order. During the Law Committee meeting, the ministry legal adviser, Ahaz Ben-Ari, admitted that the compensation issue was problematic. "I confess that the arrangement we devised is not the best one we could have come up with," he told the MKs. "However, we had to act quickly." Ben-Ari's "confession" came during a heated Law Committee hearing on two motions filed by MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) against the freeze order, and particularly the compensation issue. The hearing was attended by a battery of right-wing MKs including Orbach, Levin, Ze'ev Elkin, Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), as well as committee chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), who bitterly attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i. Ben-Ari accused the political leadership including Barak and Vilna'i of deliberately unleashing the army against the settlers. Dayan charged that "Barak and Vilna'i are responsible for lighting a fire." Vilna'i said in response that he had been slandered by some of the MKs. The meeting got off to a bad start when Rotem complained that Barak had not kept his promise to attend the meeting and had sent Vilna'i as an unsatisfactory replacement. The meeting had been scheduled to take place earlier but was postponed because Barak had promised to attend, charged Rotem. Vilna'i replied that Barak had been invited to 50 Knesset committee meetings to discuss the building freeze and could not possibly attend them all. He said the defense minister had appeared before a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week to discuss the freeze. He also accused Rotem of trying to drag the army into the middle of a political dispute by summoning senior army officials, including Mizrahi, to appear before the committee. Vilna'i refused to allow Mizrahi to speak at the meeting. Vilna'i also said that instead of considering legal matters, the Law Committee was being exploited for political purposes. He criticized Rotem for inviting the heads of Jewish local authorities in the West Bank to attend the meeting, including one who had ripped up the freeze order delivered by soldiers of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. "You are making improper use of the committee," he said. MK Levin said that the freeze order discriminated between Jews and Palestinians living in the West Bank in favor of the latter. "Yes, buildings should be demolished," he said, "but they should be illegal Arab buildings. The problem is selective enforcement of demolition orders." He also charged that the wording and terms of the military order to freeze construction differed from the cabinet decision of the previous day. Barak, he said, had been responsible for that change. He warned that the government was creating "a second Gush Katif" because no effective arrangements had been made to compensate the settlers, and said that the government had not even tried to estimate how much the compensation would cost the Treasury. Finally, he said that the procedures for issuing and enforcing the freeze "are destructive to the army" because they had forced it to clash with settlers.