Security forces evacuate West Bank outpost where settlers, soldiers clashed on Friday

Politicians trade barbs in wake of scuffle at Oz Zion that injured five police and saw two right-wing activists arrested

Security forces arrived early Sunday morning at the West Bank outpost of Oz Zion, demolished makeshift structures and evacuated a small group of right-wing activists who had remained at the site. The move came after a failed attempt on Friday night to evacuate the site during which settlers clashed with IDF soldiers and border police.

Despite the fact that many of the activists had already begun to clear the area Saturday night, some 30 right-wing activists were still at the outpost when security forces arrived. The activists scuffled with the evacuating force, but there were no injuries.

On Friday, the demolition of the outpost, near the settlement of Beit El, was postponed after roughly 200 settler youths confronted the soldiers who came to demolish the buildings at the site. Two activists, one of whom was a 16-year-old, were arrested and five border policemen were lightly injured in the clashes. In addition, two border police vehicles were damaged. Each side accused the other of initiating the violence.

The group had congregated on the hilltop for a Shabbat eve youth meeting, led by Rabbi Dov Lior, who also left the outpost on Saturday night.

The IDF said it had postponed the evacuation out of respect for Shabbat.

Activist leader Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu said the confrontation could have been avoided were it not for the government trying to score political points from the move.

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The Friday clashes drew heavy criticism from center-left politicians.

Hatnua (The Movement) leader Tzipi Livni blasted Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, for the Oz Zion scuffle.

“Bennett and his extremist rabbis led them [the settlers] to that hill to deliberately create friction with IDF soldiers and create a situation of disobedience,” said Livni at a Shabbat culture series event.

She contended that Lior — an extremist settler rabbi and reported spiritual leader of the Jewish Home party — ostensibly flouted an agreement with the IDF for the voluntary evacuation of the outpost, and said he had instead deliberately engineered a Sabbath eve confrontation.

“They led them there knowing our children — IDF soldiers — would have to evacuate them. Netanyahu, who continues to wink at the extreme right, his natural allies, stopped the eviction — because for him, and for his extremist coalition partners, everything can be destroyed, just not Shabbat.”

She concluded by stating that such actions were a dangerous precedent. “They are deliberately creating these types of collisions to encourage soldiers to disobey the IDF’s orders — and that is a very grave matter.”

Last week, Bennett came under fire for claiming during a TV interview that if he were an IDF soldier who was ordered to remove settlers from their homes, he would opt for the path of conscientious objection. His comments, which were viewed as a scandalous call for insubordination within the army, sparked virulent criticism from both sides of the political aisle.

Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, speaking on a tour in the north with Druze security leaders Saturday, blasted hardline extremists for creating a dangerous situation in Oz Zion.

“The extremism that is controlling the right-wing candidates’ discourse increases the motivation to use violence against the IDF,” he said.

Anyone who raises their hands against the IDF and security forces are raising their hands at Israel and are liable for imprisonment,” Mofaz added. “Such cases should be treated seriously and not just let go.”

Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich said that the activists’ voluntary departure was necessary, but did not erase the stain of attacking the soldiers.

“The outlaws must be brought to justice. This is an indication of the danger inherent in legitimizing insubordination and selective obedience to the rule of law,” said Yachimovich.

On Saturday evening Bennett accused rival politicians of taking advantage of the Shabbat — when Bennett, as an Orthodox Jew, is unable to respond — to hurl personal attacks against him.

“I conclude a pleasant Shabbat with my family, turn on the television and see that Livni is attacking me and accusing me of leading activists to a hilltop to clash with soldiers and urge insubordination. What the hell? What are you talking about?” posted Bennett on his Facebook page.

He added that if there was an illegal outpost that required being evacuated, common sense urged that it be done in the middle of the week and not during Shabbat.

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