Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Friday criticized Jewish settlers who entered two buildings in the West Bank city of Hebron last week, asserting that the move harmed both the interests of the state and of the settler movement itself.
“Anyone who tries to shorten the process is shooting the state in the leg and shooting the settlements in the head,” the defense minister said during a gathering for Likud party members in Eilat, according to Channel 10.
“I would be happy to confirm the move into the homes in Hebron, but whoever wants to advance the good of the settlements should not invade homes.”
Last Friday, Ya’alon ordered the removal of several dozen Jewish settlers from two houses in Hebron, a day after they entered the buildings, claiming they had secretly bought them from Palestinians. The settlers entered the homes near the Tomb of the Patriarchs on Thursday, using crowbars to break in, and raising the Israeli flag on the roof.
Palestinians said the buildings were taken over illegally and they clashed with the settlers. The riots were broken up by security forces.
The defense minister called the settlers “intruders” and asserted they had acted in “brazen” breach of the law, as they did not have proper occupancy permits.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sided with Ya’alon’s decision, promised cabinet members a swift investigation of the legality of the alleged purchase of the buildings and said last Sunday the settlers would soon be allowed back in the homes.
Ya’alon’s order set off a string of angry condemnations by right-wing politicians over the past weekend. The right-wing Jewish Home party called the evacuation “irresponsible, bullheaded and inflammatory.” It castigated Ya’alon’s focus on alleged settler breaches of the law at a time when Israel was being targeted by Palestinian terrorism.
At Friday’s event in Eilat, Ya’alon took a swipe at the Jewish Home party, hinting that its members of Knesset had acted irresponsibly when condemning the evacuation.
“I’ve attended many discussions and [heard many] slogans,” Ya’alon said. “That is not how you determine policy.”
On Monday, the cabinet secretary gave the go-ahead for the establishment of a ministerial committee on settlements, to be headed by Netanyahu. Despite earlier reports, the committee will not curtail the defense minister’s authority over the West Bank. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office noted that jurisdiction over settlements will remain with Ya’alon.