Shas faction chairman MK Avraham Michaeli took a tour on Thursday of the Binyamin communities slated for demolition: Givat Assaf, Migron and the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El. He came as a guest of MK Uri Ariel (National Union).
Several issues are at the root of the demolition issue: Supreme Court Dorit Beinisch has ruled recently that land in Yesha (Judea, Samaria, Binyamin) that has no proven Arab owners but is not designated as state land is to be considered Arab land by default rather than state land; the court does not consider suggesting payment or alternate land in the rare cases of Arab landowner claimants whose claim is found to be justified; the state aided in the founding of certain communities without determining their final status and the court has ruled on demolitions without that final determination.
During the tour of Givat Assaf, MK Michaeli expressed his astonishment at the spread of untouched illegal Arab construction around the community, and expressed his desire to assist the community by transferring funds to build a magnificent new mikveh (ritual bath).
After the tour of Givat Assaf, MK Michaeli visited Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood which was built according to a decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his first term in office in 1996. Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum explained to the MK that although the area was purchased legally from an Arab who claimed ownership of the land, and although residents of the neighborhood received incentives by the government of then Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 1999, the state seeks to destroy five out of the 12 homes in the neighborhood.
During the visit, Michaeli had lunch with local residents at the home of Rabbi Nir and Vardina Bitton, whose home is in danger of being demolished. During the lunch, Vardina Bitton appealed to Michaeli to help stop the demolitions, while one of her children told the MK, “I don’t want my house to be demolished.”
MK Michaeli responded by saying, “Seeing is definitely believing. We have to fight this, including through prayer and by consulting with rabbis. The law is not in the hands of any group and there are varied legal opinions on this issue. Unfortunately, the prosecution is unjustly using a legal technique in this case. We will do everything to make everyone aware of the injustice being done here. We must not return to the sights of Gush Katif. We will do everything so that I can come back here in ten years and celebrate with the residents.”
He also promised the families to arrange a visit for them in the home of Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The tour concluded in Migron, where Michaeli met with local residents and examined the ruins of the three homes that were demolished in the middle of the night two months ago.
MK Michaeli is the 21st Knesset member to tour these communities, as part of an initiative by National Union MK Yaakov Katz to bring MKs to see these area first hand. Other MKs who have toured the area include MK Daniel Hershkowitz (The Jewish Home) and MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud), and dozens more are expected to participate in the coming weeks.