‘Stage 3’ of moratorium next week

Exclusive: Police to begin pressing charges against settlement-freeze violators.

efrat synagogue 311 (photo credit: Eli Stein)
efrat synagogue 311
(photo credit: Eli Stein)
The Defense Ministry plans to launch “Stage 3” of its cabinet-sanctioned crackdown on new construction in West Bank settlements next week, including a major police roundup of those who violate the moratorium, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
News of the planned escalation came on Thursday, as US Vice President Joe Biden left Israel after a three-day visit that was marred by an Interior Ministry approval of a residential project in east Jerusalem, which the government does not consider a settlement and therefore is not covered by the 10-month housing start moratorium.
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Stage 3 of the IDF’s operation, aimed at implementing the settlement freeze, is also called the “criminal stage,” since it provides for the arrest and indictment of settlers who obstruct the work of the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria in distributing stop-work orders, as well as settlers and contractors who illegally build in the settlements.
Since the freeze went into effect on November 29, the civil administration has issued more than 400 stop-work orders, confiscated more than 40 pieces of heavy machinery used by contractors, and demolished 11 structures and foundations laid during the moratorium.
The civil administration, in charge of enforcing the freeze, began escalating its operations last week with a crackdown on major settlements where illegal construction was taking place.
On Thursday, inspectors destroyed foundations that were being laid in Efrat, in Gush Etzion. Another five foundations were demolished in the nearby settlement of Bat Ayin. On Wednesday, inspectors demolished a structure in Yakir, in Samaria, 35 km. east of Tel Aviv, and the day before in Moshav Salit, 8 km. south of Tulkarm.
“We will no longer tolerate violations of the regulations,” one defense official said. “This will be a major crackdown to ensure that the stop-work orders are obeyed.”
The officials noted that the crackdown over the past week, as demonstrated by the demolition in Efrat on Thursday, was the result of an increase in illegal construction – until now, mostly limited to illegal outposts.
The decision to begin Stage 3 of the operation will be formalized over the weekend by Defense Minister Ehud Barak in consultation with Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi.
Under the plan, inspectors arriving at settlements to enforce the freeze will be accompanied by large police forces, which will arrest anyone who tries to prevent the inspectors from entering the gates of the community. In addition, criminal charges will be pressed against the owners of lots where construction is taking place in violation of moratorium regulations, as well as against contractors, and possibly against regional council chiefs if they are aware of the activity.
Last month Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i said that inspectors had found moratorium violations in 28 settlements.
But on Tuesday, the Knesset’s Joint Committee for the Defense Budgetrefused Barak’s request to transfer NIS 12 million from security tocoordinating activities in the West Bank in order to add 40 newpositions – including 29 as part of the enforcement arm of the civiladministration.
In addition, although 40 inspectors are needed to monitor moratorium compliance, only 30 are in the field to date.

Tovah Lazaroff and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.