Settlers warn of imminent demolitions

Settlers warn of imminen

Settlers believe security forces could enter their communities as early as Sunday to destroy structures the IDF believes are being built illegally, in defiance of the 10-month moratorium on new Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. "We have warned all the settlements that this could happen," said Itzik Shadmi, who heads the Binyamin Citizens Committee. An IDF document leaked to the media two weeks ago revealed a detailed plan under which the Border Police would demolish such structures as the IDF secured the perimeters of the sites. On Friday, the Binyamin Citizens Committee received reliable information that such action could take place as early as Sunday, its spokesman said. "We are ready any time to begin the second stage of the moratorium order," a defense official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night, but he did not specify a date when this would occur. "The decision is in the hands of the political echelon," he said. According to the official, the units that will participate in the home demolitions have already participated in drills simulating such operations, and they are ready. Defense officials said the next "natural stage" for the moratorium plan was to demolish structures that have been worked on illegally since the cabinet decided to freeze new construction in the West Bank at the end of November. Work was ordered halted on some 1,000 housing units as a result of the moratorium. Construction, however, has continued on 3,000 homes whose foundations were laid before the moratorium was imposed. Inspectors from the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria have visited 150 settlements and outposts in the West Bank and issued stop-work orders at construction sites where building was continuing in violation of the moratorium. "After distributing the orders, the next natural stage will be to demolish the structures that are being built illegally," one official said. "It will happen, it is just a question of when." The moment the moratorium was announced, settlers vowed to resist. In some places, residents closed the gates to their communities and tried to prevent the inspectors from entering. They sat on the roads and used vehicles to block their path. Shadmi said that settlers are preparing similar types of nonviolent resistance to thwart the demolitions. Separately, he said that in the next few weeks settlers in the Binyamin region have planned a resistance campaign in which they will begin to build structures in their communities, preferably public buildings, in an act of open defiance against the moratorium. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip does not plan to join the Binyamin Citizens Committee in its building campaign. Instead it pitched a protest tent last week in front of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's official residence in the capital. On Sunday morning, local and regional councils in the West Bank kept their offices shut and began a one-day strike of all but essential services. Schools, however, will be open as usual. In addition, council workers were planning to demonstrate in front of the Prime Minister's Office during the weekly cabinet meeting. They were then due to march through the streets of Jerusalem to the protest tent near Netanyahu's home. "We are determined to keep up our struggle to abolish the freeze. Since the government's position made normal life in our communities impossible, we decided that the municipalities should strike," said Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Local and regional settler council heads are upset that the moratorium halted new construction and simultaneously took away their powers to issue other construction permits. Plans by the Defense Ministry to rewrite the language of the moratorium to clarify that local and regional council heads can still issue permits for renovations of existing building, such as the installation of air-conditioners, heaters and porches, have not mollified the settlers. "We have heard the promises but have not seen any action," Dayan said.