Barak: Full Steam Ahead for Demolitions
In an interview Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak denied that he had acted on his own and ignored a deal to ensure that Ramat Gilad would not be demolished. “I can understand aiming for a compromise, but one way or another, illegal outposts will be taken down,” Barak said. “Jews cannot settle on land whose ownership is disputed by Arabs.”
In its Friday edition last week, the Mekor Rishon newspaper reported that government minister had worked out a deal with Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan to prevent the demolition of Ramat Gilad. According to the deal – which, reports this week said, is back on track – several structures on the Ramat Gilad hilltop would be moved several hundred meters to areas that are not claimed by Arabs; in return, the government would authorize the area as part of the city plan of Karnei Shomron, effectively turning the area into a new neighborhood for the town. The deal was also said to have been approved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Barak did not express a public opinion on the deal, but according to the report, he decided on his own to quash the deal, and sent the army in to demolish the site early last week. The forces gathered at the Jitt junction, about five kilometers from Karnei Shomron, where Ramat Gilad is located. As the forces were gathering, hundreds of protesters gathered on Road 55, intending to block the advance of the forces to the site, which is on a hilltop, several hundred meters above the road. As tension mounted, several protesters entered the Binyamin army base adjacent to the town. According to Mekor Rishon, Barak called off the forces only after getting a phone call from a fuming Netanyahu, who was said to have been shocked at Barak's actions.
Barak, for his part, said that the story was inaccurate, although he did not deny receiving a call from Netanyahu asking him to stop the evacuation. Regardless, he said, as far as he was concerned, any deals to prevent the demolition of Ramat Gilad, or any other question, were not his concern. “Our democracy demands the rule of law, and until the Attorney General approves these deals, the IDF will enforce the law, which is to remove outposts built on land claimed by Arabs. I am all for compromise, but the IDF will carry out the law as it is supposed to,” Barak said.