NETIV HA’AVOT — Security forces demolished a woodshop after clearing it of activists in the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost in the West Bank on Wednesday.
Earlier, hundreds of youths congregated at the outpost, a neighborhood of Elazar in the Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem, in an attempt to prevent the destruction of the structure, which was ordered by the High Court of Justice.
Border Police officers dragged the youths out of the woodshop one by one, clearing it so it could be razed.
Protesters started fires at the entrances to the neighborhood to slow down the officers.
As roughly 100 officers built a perimeter around the woodshop and worked to evacuate it, teenage boys and girls blew whistles and sang the Israeli national anthem.
A number of young protesters hurled curses and insults at security forces, and accused them of being traitors. “A Jew does not evict another Jew!” one shouted.
The High Court ruled that the woodshop, a memorial for fallen IDF soldiers, and 15 homes were partially built on private Palestinian land.
The homes are slated for demolition by March 2018, but the razing of the two non-residential structures was ordered to be carried out earlier. The memorial has already been destroyed once and rebuilt in a less legally-problematic location in the neighborhood.
While none of the homes in the outpost sits entirely on private Palestinian land, nine of them have significant portions built illegally.
Last month, the High Court rejected a petition by residents who sought to spare the other six houses, which only infringe marginally on private land.
The residents offered to demolish only the “problematic parts” of the homes, many of them sprawling villas, thereby allowing the remainder of those buildings to remain intact.
While the High Court rejected the offer and said that all 15 homes must be demolished, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is working to provide building permits to the six less-problematic homes, thereby averting their demolition.
Liron Hyman, 24, called the demolition “absurd.”
“Our backs have been thrown against the wall and the government has turned us into radical settlers rather than the moderate mainstream that we really are,” she said.
Hyman, a resident of Netiv Ha’avot for the last 16 years, said the government was to blame for the eviction.
“They say it is the most right-wing government ever, but this will be the fourth community demolished on their watch,” she said, downplaying the fact that the homes of the outpost were built illegally. “People are forced to build first and only afterward they receive approval. That’s how things are done here.”
Another resident, Ami Gvirtzman, focused blame on cabinet ministers representing the ruling Likud party, saying they hadn’t done enough to enough to prevent the demolition.
“They have plenty of goodwill, but none of it translated into any action on our behalf,” he said. “They made us all sorts of promises that they did not keep.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Shlomo Ne’eman said the evacuation of the woodshop was a “very sad” moment.
“We are told that this is a matter of rule of law, but this is in fact the destruction of the law,” he told The Times of Israel. “It is time for the government to recognize the right of our sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel.”
“It is painful to see the unnecessary destruction in Netiv Ha’avot,” the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group said in a statement. “The High Court of Justice ruling on the matter is a moral injustice, and the demolition threat is still pending on another 15 homes in the neighborhood. We demand that the Israeli government act urgently to do everything in its power to legalize the Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood.”
For its part, the Peace Now settlement watchdog released a statement rejecting the settlers’ claim that they are, in fact, the victims of legal injustice at the hands of the High Court. “The attempt by the government and settlers to argue that there is no point in evacuating the woodshop conveys an inappropriate message that it is okay to steal land,” the NGO said.