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Defense Minister Denies He was Misled about Demolition

Defense Ministry inquiry regarding razing of activist's home shows 'failings' but no intentional deceit by IDF.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/25/2014, 8:56 AM

Kaisler home: unoccupied?
Kaisler home: unoccupied?
Kaisler family

The Office of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon published on Monday the results of an internal inquiry about the demolition of the home of a prominent Jewish activist in Samaria – a demolition that settlement enterprise leaders say was the result of vengeful and deceptive behavior by the IDF Civil Administration.

The home that was demolished – which belonged to the Kaisler family, in the community of Kida – was built without proper legal permits and against the law, according to the official report. Furthermore, IDF soldiers and police encountered violent resistance last September, when they attempted to prevent the transporting of the home's components into Kida (the home was made up of several mobile structures). In the course of this event, a police vehicle was allegedly damaged and its tires were punctured.

Despite official warnings, the owner of the home – activist Sagi Kaisler, Director of the grassroots Samaria Residents' Council – insisted on setting down its component parts and constructing the home, the report says. A stop work order was issued, but he failed to prove ownership of the land, which lacked an approved plan because it is located outside the limits of Kida, and a demolition order was issued as well. When it was razed, the home was not yet occupied, and most of the furnishings were removed before the destruction.

"No basis in reality” was found for the claim that the destruction was an act of personal vengeance by IDF personnel and officials in the Civil Administration against Kaisler, according to the inquiry.

The inquiry did, however, find evidence that points to “failings” in the way the demand to demolish the structure were presented to Defense Minister Yaalon. “The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) will take care of fixing the failings and will take steps against the people responsible for these failings. It should be noted that these failings were not of a nature that would have changed the decision to demolish the structure. Furthermore, the claims that the Defense Minister was maliciously misled by the Civil Administration are false and baseless,” the report said.

The Defense Minister added that he gives his full backing to the security forces involved in the case and sees great importance in maintaining the rule of law “without compromise.” The violence the security forces suffered is “an unbearable situation,” said the ministry, adding that it denounces the public attack on the security forces, which was “accompanied by dissemination of false information.” The minister said that he is sorry that a small number of Judea and Samaria residents behave violently and illegally, while most of the residents are normative, good citizens.

The Defense Ministry's claims contradict the testimony of Morag Kaisler, who says that she was told by Minister Yaalon that he was led to believe he was destroying an uninhabited structure.

The Samaria Residents' Council stated in response: “We are glad that the Defense Minister has understood the truthfulness of our claim regarding failings in the way the demand to demolish the structure was presented to him. However, the response by the minister's bureau teaches us that the Civil Administration officials are yet again misleading the minister and avoiding the fact that there was discrimination in the way enforcement was applied in the case of the Director of the Samaria Residents' Council.

The legal status of the Kaisler home is identical to that of hundreds of Jewish homes and thousands of Arab homes that are located on the same territory, the Council said. It denied that any violence was used against the security forces, adding that anyone who did so should have been arrested and punished.

The defense minister was also misled by the Civil Administration into believing that the home was unoccupied – when in fact, the Kaisler family had been living in it for two months on a daily basis, said the statement. The Kaislers met with Yaalon a few days ago and offered to show him video that proves no violence was used against security personnel when the home was being set on the ground. The minister elected not to watch the video and to give “automatic” backing to the security forces.

MKs Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu) and Orit Struk (Jewish Home) stated Monday that the defense minister's message “reflects a culture of covering up for an unjust act of demolition against a home that left a family with nothing,” while the inquiry still appears to show that this was an act of vengefulness and deception.

The MKs, who head the Land of Israel Caucus in the Knesset, called for an external inquiry to be held so that cases like this do not happen again, and that the Kaisler family be compensated – especially for property it was not allowed to remove from the home.