Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told settlers evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost the move was unavoidable but the whole country shared their “great pain.”
Speaking as security forces wrapped up the West Bank evacuation of some 40 families, Netanyahu repeated his promise to build a new settlement and strengthen existing ones in the wake of the forced evacuation of Amona, which the High Court of Justice ruled in 2014 was built on privately owned Palestinian land.
“We know [these are] difficult days,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the West Bank settlement of Ariel. “We made every effort to avoid getting to this point, but ultimately we abide by the demands of the law because we are a law-abiding nation. You and I all share in the great pain of the families that were forced to leave their homes, that actually had to abandon their life’s work.”
The prime minister reiterated his pledge to build a first new settlement in decades.
“We all understand the great pain and so we will set up a new settlement on state land,” Netanyahu said.
On Wednesday, he said he had instructed a team to look into possible locations for the new settlement. The team consists of his chief of staff, representatives of the settlement movement and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s adviser for settlement affairs.
Netanyahu a month and a half ago promised the settlers a new community if efforts to save Amona failed.
Netanyahu also called on the protesters at Amona not to resist and to respect the security forces. “It is also difficult for them and we need to remember that they protect all of us,” he said.
Later on Thursday, security forces completed the final evacuation of the outpost synagogue, where dozens of youths had barricaded themselves. The final showdown devolved into violent clashes as police breached the synagogue, leaving 17 officers lightly injured.
The protesters resisted the security forces, throwing hard objects at them and in at least one case, acid. They also left behind anti-police swastika graffiti on the walls of the synagogue.
Amona residents tried to distance themselves from the youths, saying they were not residents and had come to the site to resist the eviction.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog took a tougher line against the protesters who clashed with police during the evacuation of the synagogue, comparing them to the radical Jews accused in the Duma firebombing in July 2015, in which a Palestinian infant and his parents were killed.
“There’s a direct connection between the violent rioters we saw in the last hours of Amona and the underground movement that carried out the Duma massacre. A group of outlaws, with no connection to the law-abiding Amona residents and other settlers,” Herzog said in a statement.
The firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma led to the immediate death of toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha. Parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their wounds in the hospital within weeks of the attack. Five-year-old Ahmed, Ali’s brother, was badly hurt in the firebombing and faces a long rehabilitation.
Two Jewish suspects, 22-year old Amiram Ben-Uliel of Jerusalem and an unnamed minor, have been charged in the attack.
“I said before this painful evacuation, we cannot allow violence of any kind, especially not against police officers who are our sons,” Herzog said.
“We must all come together at this time and protect democracy and the rule of law,” he said.