Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday asked the Supreme Court to rescind the injunction it issued against the evacuation of an outpost erected Friday by 200 Palestinian and foreign activists in the E1 area, located between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
Netanyahu ordered the closure of access roads to the area in order to prevent gatherings until the court responds to the state’s motion to allow security forces to evacuate the Palestinians and activists and dismantle the tents there.
The activists erected tents in the area on Friday saying they wanted to “establish facts on the ground” to stop Israeli construction in the West Bank. The activists were borrowing a phrase and a tactic, usually associated with Jewish settlers, who believe establishing communities means the territory will remain Israeli.
The 25-strong tent city, called Bab el-Shams, or The Gate of the Sun, was set up in protest of the Israeli government’s announcement in November of plans to build housing in the disputed area, a move that some critics say will preclude the possibility of a territorially contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank.
The Supreme Court decision to temporarily halt the removal of the tent city came after four Bedouin families who claim the land submitted a petition. Tawfiq Jabarin presented their case, which contended the tents were erected on private lands as part of a project that attracts tourists to learn about their culture, known as “Albadia.” The petition further claimed the initiative, which includes learning how to bake pita or milling flour on stones, only takes places seasonally, in the winter and spring, Haaretz reported.
The army and police sought to remove the Supreme Court’s temporary order on the grounds that the petitioners misled the court, arguing that the outpost is a political provocation and not a cultural project. The security forces further contended that the court order prevents the removal of the tents but not of the individuals at the outpost.
According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, the activists were handed evacuation orders Friday by the IDF, which gave them an ultimatum: leave voluntarily or we’ll use force to take down the outpost. However, the army’s plans of evacuation were halted by the Supreme Court’s orders.
The IDF also made the area a closed military zone, thereby preventing new activists from reaching it. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the protesters were handed documents saying they were trespassing.
The activists’ move of setting up an outpost mirrored tactics used by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
“We have set up 20 tents, and have enough equipment to stay here for a long time,” AFP quoted Abir Kopty, spokeswoman for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, as saying on Friday.
The organizers of the Palestinian outpost said their actions were not symbolic. Rather, their intention was to change the rules of the game and create facts on the ground that they claim as theirs.
“We are building the village because we cannot remain silent any longer about the continuing settlement construction and theft of our land, and because we believe in direct action and nationalistic opposition for obtaining our objectives,” the organizers were quoted by Walla saying. They added that they would not leave the premises until the Palestinian owners of the property received their full rights to it.
“Bab el-Shams is our gate to return,” they said.
PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi praised the activists for their “highly creative and legitimate non-violent tool” to protect Palestinian land, saying she fully supported and encouraged their methods, Ma’an added.
Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.
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