Defense minister, prime minister praise "efficient" evacuation forces; Livni: Law must be respected.
By SHELLY PAZ
Shortly after police began evacuating Hebron's Beit Hashalom Thursday afternoon, Shas chairman Eli Yishai slammed the timing.
"It is a pity that out of concern for his ratings, the defense minister [Ehud Barak] cut off the negotiation process, showed contempt for the law and threw people out of the structure," Yishai said. "Not even exploiting security issues for political ends will make the Labor Party relevant or help to reinvent something whose time has past," he said, in a reference to Thursday's Labor primary.
After weeks of criticism for not condemning settler violence in Hebron, Likud leader Binyamin Nentanyahu issued a statement: "We must respect the law and implement it. I call on all parties and those who are being evacuated to put the dispute aside and to resolve it peacefully while respecting the law. That has always been our way," Netanyahu said.
Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said the timing of the evacuation showed how "powerless" Barak was.
"It's too bad the defense minister doesn't operate with the same decisiveness against the Kassam launchers in Gaza, the rockets in the North and the Palestinian terrorism from Judea and Samaria," Lieberman said.
He reminded Barak that the east Jerusalem home of Ala Abu Dhaim, who killed eight students in the capital's Mercaz Harav yeshiva in March, was still standing.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) hinted that Barak had an interest in an escalation in Hebron.
"The defense minister could have acted wisely and postponed the evacuation until after the legal status of the house is clarified by the High Court of Justice, if only to eliminate the appearance of political considerations," Rivlin said.
MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) said of the evacuation: "It's better late than never. I hope the delay in the decision-making will not cause many injuries."
Meretz chairman Haim Oron called on Barak to reinforce the security forces in the West Bank to prevent "rioting settlers" from harming Palestinians. "I also call on Netanyahu to calm down his supporters," Oron said. He spoke after it was reported that significant damage had been done to Palestinian property in Hebron.
Barak, speaking at a press conference in his Tel Aviv office after the evacuation was completed, praised the IDF, the Israel Police, the Border Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for the efficient operation.
"We haven't seen the IDF operates with such decisiveness in many years. The hilltop youth behave in a reckless manner that challenges the authority of the state," Barak said.
He denied that the decision to carry out the evacuation on the day of Labor's primary was based on political concerns.
"The distance between opposition and complete anarchy is not that far," Barak added.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised Barak and the security forces for the "fast and efficient evacuation."
A government under his leadership would not allow anyone or anything to harm Israeli democracy and the rule of law, Olmert said.
"Any efforts to commit violence, incite individuals to harm the Palestinian population or to enflame Samaria and Judea will face an immediate and strong response from the security forces," he said.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni also supported the evacuation.
"There is no joy in what we saw today. Such sights are unpleasant for those who love the State of Israel and who want it to function as a state of law, Jewish and democratic, but they are needed," Livni said.
She spoke at the first-ever meeting of the Kadima Security Forum of ministers and MKs in her office in Tel Aviv.
"Those who claim that there were political considerations behind the evacuation today are wrong. The leadership speaks out clearly and enforces the law. This is correct for the national, local and social leadership. The law must be enforced. It was enforced and it will be enforced," Livni said.
President Shimon Peres commended the security forces.
"To safeguard its constitution and security, the state must sometimes take difficult measures," Peres said. "In this instance there was no escaping the difficult steps that were taken by the defense forces. I commend the government and the security forces for making a difficult decision and carrying it out with sense and responsibility."
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