Defense Minister Ehud Barak has asked the Supreme Court to postpone, for six months, the decision on the homes in Eli and Haresha. MKs say that Barak is evading the only just outcome, namely, for him to sign the official authorization legalizing the neighborhoods.
Several months ago, the Supreme Court set a deadline of May 1 for the State Prosecution to apprise the Supreme Court of its intended schedule for demolishing the 18 permanent buildings in Haresha and Yovel [Eli]. Though the residents and local authorities legal advisors showed that the buildings and neighborhoods are legal and merely lack the Defense Minister’s final authorization, the Supreme Court accepted Peace Now’s petition against their legality and ordered the buildings razed. The case has been in adjudication for five years.
Among the residents of the 12 homes in Eli are the widows and orphans of two IDF heroes who were killed in battle: Maj. Ro’i Klein and Maj. Eliraz Peretz. Klein was killed in the Second Lebanon War while protecting his soldiers, and Peretz was killed last month in a clash with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.
Fearing that he would be accused of great insensitivity to the bereaved families if the destruction were to go through, Barak wrote last week to Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch that “the shock and tragedy that have overtaken this small community require sensitive and humane treatment regarding the destruction of the houses. Just discussing the dates for the destruction at this time should be pushed off for a later time. I therefore ask of the honorable court to postpone by six months the deadline for the State’s response on this matter.”
With this, Barak earned himself the diplomatic equivalent of catcalls from the pro-Land of Israel public. “He is evading the solution,” said MK Ze’ev Elkin, co-chairman of the Land of Israel Knesset Forum, on Thursday. “To say that in six months it will be more appropriate to deal with this issue is ridiculous. The residents’ blood will be worth less in another half year?”
“We call upon the Defense Minister not to drag his feet,” Elkin continued, “and to inform the Supreme Court that he has approved the two neighborhoods, Haresha and Yovel, out of considerations of justice and civil rights.”
Elkin and other MKs of the Knesset Forum visited the Yovel neighborhood in Eli on Thursday. Another participant, MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) said, “Barak has once again run away,” referring to a training accident in 1992 in which Barak was accused of leaving the scene early (accusations which the State Comptroller later found to be false).
“Barak has run away from the only possible decision,” Orlev said, “and that is to authorize the two neighborhoods retroactively. What Barak has done is to keep the Klein and Peretz widows hostages to his leftist political agenda.”
Orlev called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “take responsibility, show leadership, and bring the matter of legalizing these neighborhoods to a government decision.”
Barak, known as Israel’s most decorated soldier, was also criticized during the Eli tour by MK Danny Danon (Likud). “The values of the Medals of Valor and Heroism are not recognizable in Barak’s behavior in this matter. I would like Barak to look into the eyes of Miriam Peretz and Sarah Klein and tell them that the destruction of their homes is the prize we are giving our enemies for the deaths of Eliraz and Ro’i.”
Thirteen MKs took part in the tour, including Chaim Amsalem and Avraham Michaeli of Shas, Deputy Minister Leah Ness and Tzipi Hotovely of the Likud, and others. Uri Ariel (National Union) said, “It doesn’t matter how many times the Defense Minister runs away, these neighborhoods will grow and develop, and we in the Land of Israel Forum will work and struggle until Eli becomes a full-fledged city in Israel.”
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), co-chair of the forum, warned that Netanyahu is not planning to un-freeze Jewish construction when the ten-month deadline ends five months from now. “He is just throwing sand in our eyes,” Eldad said, “and the construction will only resume if the Land of Israel loyalists in the Knesset exert massive pressure on Netanyahu to keep his public promises and restart the wheels of planning and construction that Barak would like to stop forever.”