‘We won’t give up,’ settlement leaders vow
June 11, 2012 | Atara Beck - Israel Correspondent
JERUSALEM – A Knesset vote last Wednesday that resulted in favour of the destruction of five West Bank apartment buildings housing 30 families (69 against 22) was met with profound anger within nationalist circles as well as pledges of determination to continue the struggle against the demolition deadline of July 1.
The vote, sponsored by Jewish Home MK Zevulun Orlev, was held to determine the implementation of the ‘Regulation Law,’ which was aimed at bypassing a Supreme Court order to raze the buildings in the tiny Jewish neighbourhood of Givat HaUlpana in Beit El.
At a press conference that immediately followed, Orlev and settlement movement leaders vowed not to give up.
The demand to destroy the homes stemmed from lobbying by leftist organizations on behalf of a Palestinian land owner claiming that the homes were built on his property, which was never proven in court. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of the demolition.
Before the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had referred to the Jewish residents of the West Bank as the “salt of the earth,” argued that circumventing the court would ultimately hurt the settlement movement because the government would be seen as disobeying the rule of law on its behalf. He threatened that ministers who voted in favour of the Regulation Law would be fired; several, who had publicly declared their support for the law, either voted against it or abstained.
A number of legal experts here have argued that voting for the Regulation Law would not compromise the law because of faulty premises such as accepting without proof the claims of private Palestinian ownership.
Following the vote, Netanyahu and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias announced the approval of 381 new housing units in Judea and Samaria, including 300 for Beit El.
A common reaction included distrust of such pledges and a fear that the destruction of Ulpana would set a precedent for other areas that claim private Palestinian ownership.
“Bibi explains that he’ll destroy five and build hundreds,” Yehudit Katsover, a leader of Women in Green, an activist group supporting Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, told the Jewish Tribune. “The crux of the matter is the principle that you don’t destroy Jewish homes.”
Nine days before the vote, a handful of activists began a hunger strike to protest the demolition. Within days, the number grew to about 40, including 90-year-old Avraham Nocham.
Hundreds of settlers and supporters held a two-day protest march from Givat HaUlpana to Jerusalem, which concluded shortly before the Knesset vote took place and then continued with support from others outside the Knesset.
Police on horses arrived on the scene, although the demonstration was not violent. Four protestors were arrested and later released.