Amona settlers won’t violently oppose demolition, security minister says
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Amona settlers won’t violently oppose demolition, security minister says

Gilad Erdan says outpost residents ‘will not lift a hand against a policeman’; still hopes razing of site can be avoided

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Public Security Gilad Erdan attends a conference on the Temple Mount, held at the Israeli parliament on November 07, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Public Security Gilad Erdan attends a conference on the Temple Mount, held at the Israeli parliament on November 07, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday said he was not expecting that the court-ordered evacuation of the Amona outpost by the end of the year would see violence on the part of the settlers living there.

And the minister stressed he was still holding out hope that the so-called Regulation Bill, which seeks to retroactively legalize illegal West Bank outposts, would avert the demolition altogether.

At an hour-long Question Time plenary session, Erdan, a senior minister in the Likud party, also went off the coalition script on several matters, noting that he would vote against any effort to shutter the new public broadcaster, and opining that a proposal staunchly backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to silence mosques from issuing an amplified call to prayer in the very early morning was unnecessary.

During the session and addressing a mostly empty plenum, Erdan was asked by Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi how the Israel Police — which Erdan oversees — were preparing for the Amona evacuation.

The High Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the outpost, which was founded in 1996 and is home to some 40 families, was built on privately owned Palestinian land and must be razed by December 25, 2016. In recent months, the right-wing coalition has frantically sought a legal loophole to stave off the demolition, including floating various versions of the contested Regulation Bill, which was approved in its preliminary reading last week but which the attorney general has deemed unconstitutional. The government was also weighing additional options, including replicating the outpost on adjacent plots where the identities of the owners are unknown.

Families walk on a street in the Amona Jewish outpost in the West Bank, on July 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Families walk on a street in the Amona Jewish outpost in the West Bank, on July 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Some lawmakers, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have said that the Regulation Bill will not prevent the demolition. But Erdan on Monday said: “I still hope that the Regulation Bill will both pass and apply to Amona and prevent the evacuation.”

Erdan later acknowledged that the legislation alone may not avert the demolition, but said in such a case he has “no doubt” the police will do their job and the government will comply with the court order.

The minister said he is familiar with the Amona residents and “the majority or all are law-abiding and will not lift a hand against a policeman.”

“I don’t think that we should expect images similar to what happened in Amona 10 years ago,” he said, referring to violent clashes between police and settlers in Amona in 2006 that left over 200 people injured.

The 2006 clashes in Amona (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/ Flash 90)
The 2006 clashes in Amona (Nati Shohat/ Flash 90)

Erdan also suggested that the bill to silence mosques overnight — which has been fiercely criticized by Arab lawmakers and supported wholeheartedly by the prime minister — was unnecessary.

Existing noise pollution laws — which are largely unenforced — would “certainly” suffice to end the calls to prayer disturbing Israel’s residents, he said. Erdan said “there is insufficient enforcement,” and noted that he has brought up the issue with the police commissioner.

The bill by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev was removed from the agenda last week after Health Minister Yaakov Litzman objected over fears the law would ban the weekly siren announcing the onset of Shabbat.

In his remarks, Erdan urged dialogue between politicians and Muslim leaders to reach agreements to lower the volume on the calls to prayer, in lieu of imposing the solution through legislation.

Erdan — formerly the communications minister — also noted he would vote against any proposal to dismantle the new public broadcaster.

“It’s important to have a public broadcaster in Israel,” he said, adding that he “has never hidden my position” on this subject.

The minister, who spearheaded the government legislation to dismantle the Israel Broadcasting Authority and replace it with the new public broadcaster, said he’s waiting for the recommendations of a committee tasked with deciding whether the government should now reverse the efforts — shuttering the new broadcaster and “rehabilitating” the IBA.

If the coalition decides to close the new broadcaster, “I will vote against it,” he said

But the minister stopped short of criticizing his fellow party members — and the prime minister, who now holds the communications portfolio — who seek to shut down the new broadcaster.

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