Government agencies demolished 11 illegal buildings on the outskirts of Qalansawe, an Arab town in the Triangle in central Israel on Tuesday morning.
In protest, the mayor resigned and Israel’s Arab leadership announced a one-day protest strike on Wednesday, with schools, local authorities and businesses to stay closed.
The Finance Ministry’s National Unit for enforcing planning and construction laws, accompanied by hundreds of police and security personnel, knocked down the buildings, which had been built without planning permission and zoning authorization.
The mayor of the city, Abed el Basat Salame, resigned over the destruction and the residents were outraged at the demolitions.The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel declared a strike in the Arab sector Wednesday in response to the building demolitions.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised the demolition of the buildings which were under construction in the northern Arab city. “I commend the police forces for destroying the illegal buildings,” he tweeted. “The Qalansawe operation shows equal implementation of law enforcement as it should be.”
The Finance Ministry, which approved the demolitions, said in a statement that the buildings were built on land that was outside the approved plan for Qalansawe, in an area zoned for agriculture. “The buildings were at various stages of construction,” it said, “none were inhabited.”
The Joint (Arab) List party harshly condemned the demolitions, calling them “an unprecedented crime and a declaration of war against the residents of Qalansawe and the Arab public.”
“The houses were in the process of receiving planning permission, the government has hastened to act in order to make a point,” the statement said.
The Joint List also claimed that the demolitions came in response to the impending evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, and to divert attention from the ongoing police investigation into alleged misdeeds Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There is no doubt that the home demolitions in the Arab community is due to the theft of land in Amona,” the statement said, “and because of the crisis of the prime minister and the right-wing. As the investigation [against Netanyahu] grows so the number of demolitions grows.”
The party also claimed that there was a systemic failure of government ministries to consider the Arab community, leading to a lack of building permits and authorizations in Arab villages.