Large Knesset Majority Demands Freeze Thaw in Ariel
A majority of the Jewish parties’ Knesset Members have signed a demand addressed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak regarding the ongoing suffering of the expellees from the Gush Katif town of Netzarim. They ask that the freeze on Jewish construction be suspended in their case, in order to allow them to build the permanent homes they have been denied for nearly five years.
The several dozen families live in a neighborhood they call Bnei Netzarim (Sons of Netzarim). Their goal in moving to Ariel was to perpetuate the spirit that had permeated their lives before the Disengagement/expulsion of 2005, and strengthen other parts and populations of the country. They purchased private land in the city on which to build their new homes after their original ones were destroyed – but to their great consternation, final approval for the plans arrived just before the freeze on Jewish construction was announced last November.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly refused to allow them to begin building, and the residents and their relatively large families continue to live in tiny caravans, with no solution in sight.
The MKs’ letter, initiated by the Knesset Land of Israel Forum, says, “Every additional day of delay for the Netzarim expellees is an unbearable injustice.”
It further states, “Despite the great difficulties the residents have undergone, including living in small and temporary quarters in caravans and containers for nearly five years, they have built a beautiful community which even now contributes greatly to the spiritual “life in Ariel, as well as in solving welfare problems there.”
“The building project for Netzarim encountered many difficulties, both budgetary and political, and finally, half a year ago, the problems were solved and the project began – and then it was abruptly stopped again, because of the freeze. In all the various forums, including in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, all agreed that this project should be #1 on the list of exceptions to the freeze. All the professionals dealing with this neighborhood have said the same. Despite this, a half-year has passed, and the long-awaited approval has not yet been signed.”
The letter calls on Netanyahu and Barak to “personally intervene” in this matter – an understatement, in that the final decision is up to the two of them.
The nearly 30 government ministers who are also Knesset Members are not permitted to sign such letters. Among the signatories are six Deputy Ministers, more than half of the Kadima MKs, and practically all of the MKs from the Likud, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, and the religious parties. One Labor MK – Eitan Cabel – also signed, though he made sure to note that he is not a member of the Land of Israel forum.
Three of the Signatories Voted for More Freeze Inspectors
Just last week, the Knesset Finance Committee approved 14.4 million shekels for the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria - including for eight more inspectors to enforce the construction freeze. The motion passed despite the strong objections of committee member MK Uri Ariel and non-member MK Yaakov Katz. MKs of Shas and Israel Our Home were not present, while the Likud’s Ze’ev Elkin and Miri Regev, as well as committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party, voted in favor of the proposal; MK Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) abstained.
Gafni explained that the government had “softened” a little by asking for only eight new inspectors instead of 11. “Because of the struggle you led,” Gafni told Ariel, “we reached this [eight instead of 11]; we can’t keep pushing on this matter too.”
Katz told Gafni that “as a rabbi, should be ashamed of voting for a proposal that will destroy Jewish homes. The Land of Israel is also part of Torah, you know.”