Israeli police forces began dismantling a newly-established hilltop outpost community in Samaria Friday afternoon, just hours after the outpost was established.
Jewish settlement activists erected a number of structures on a hilltop adjacent to the existing town of Migdalim in Samaria overnight, dubbing the outpost “Ohr HaHaim,” in honor of the late Religious Zionist spiritual leader, Rabbi Haim Druckman.
The Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration declared the area a closed military zone and ordered the immediate destruction of the structures.
Activists on the scene say Arabs from neighboring towns attacked the outpost during the demolition, assaulting Jews and injuring at least one. Witnesses report Arab rioters hurled stones at activists, while Israeli security forces present at the scene did not intervene.
MK Limor Son Har-Hameleh (Otzma Yehudit) joined activists in protesting the demolition, calling on security personnel to halt the evacuation.
The demolition was launched despite orders by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) and Minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party).
As part of the process , police blocked Israeli traffic towards the area at several surrounding junctions.
Ben-Gvir ordered police to halt the demolition Friday, acknowledging that while the outpost had been built without authorization, building infractions must be fairly enforced.
“It is outrageous that while Arabs are building across Judea and Samaria, the Civil Administration people are carrying out selective enforcement – within a matter of hours – to demolish and destroy this outpost,” Ben-Gvir said Friday.
Ben-Gvir is calling on the government to hold a meeting on the Civil Administration’s handling of the matter.
Finance Minister Smotrich, who also serves as Minister in the Defense Ministry and under the coalition agreement is in charge of settlement affairs, issued an order early Friday morning to the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to freeze plans for the outpost’s demolition, instructing the COGAT that no action be taken until a formal hearing on the matter is held next week.
According to Smotrich’s office, however, Defense Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) countermanded Smotrich’s order, instructing the Civil Administration to carry out the evacuation Friday.
Sources close to Minister Smotrich called the move a direct violation of the government’s coalition agreement, noting that Galant did not consult with Smotrich before overriding his order.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently spoke with the IDF Chief of the General Staff LTG. Herzi Halevi, and reaffirmed his full support for the IDF and security forces. "Every action on the ground must be conducted in accordance with the law. It must also be fully coordinated and must be taken in accordance with the relevant security situation assessment."
The Prime Minister's Office released a statement regarding the incident: "The Government supports settlement but only when it is done legally and is coordinated in advance with the Prime Minister and security officials, which was not done in this case. The Prime Minister will convene a discussion on the issue early next week."
The Minister for Development of the Negev, the Galilee and National Resilience Yitzhak Wasserlauf commented: "It is sad to see that, even though Benny Gantz was sent to the opposition, the current Minister of Defense allows the policy of discrimination outlined by Gantz to continue - a policy of destroying settlements while ignoring illegal Arab construction. I support the demand of the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir to hold a discussion about this disgraceful conduct of the Civil Administration. The time has come for a full-on right-wing policy in Judea and Samaria."
Likud MK Danny Danon commented: "I support strengthening the settlements and the rule of law. There is no contradiction between the things. The new government is committed to settlement in Judea and Samaria and therefore must stop with selective enforcement. The same forces that arrived to demolish the Or Haim outpost should arrive in Khan al-Ahmar on Sunday morning and demolish the illegal Palestinian structures built there with EU funds. If the Civil Administration does not know the exact location, I would be happy to show them. Shabbat Shalom to the brave settlers in Judea and Samaria."
MK Limor Son Har-Malech from the Otzma Yehudit party commented: "I arrived this morning at the new outpost, Or Haim, in Samaria, to try to prevent the destruction but unfortunately I failed. Defense Minister Galant chose to infringe upon the coalition agreements and ordered security forces to carry out the destruction. With horrendous insensitivity, Arab workers were brought to the scene and destroyed the houses and property with great pleasure while making shouts of laughter and joy as if it was a holiday. I understand that the left is trying to celebrate and spread fake news, but the statement that is being spread in my name was said in regard to the outrageous and painful spectacle of the laughter of the workers there, and absolutely not towards the policemen who were forced to carry out the orders they received."
Minister Ofir Akunis commented: "We insisted in the negotiations to accept responsibility for the civil administration in order to strengthen the settlement and stop the Arab takeover of the open areas. We will insist that the coalition agreements are fully respected."
MK Benny Gantz commented on the eviction: "When Prime Minister Netanyahu leads a policy of trampling the foundations of democracy and the legal system - it is not surprising that the minister entrusted with law enforcement in the State of Israel calls on another minister to violate it. The Minister of Defense is doing a good job, adopting a determined and responsible policy in the face of violations of the law and not allowing political provocations and pressures to dictate policy in Judea and Samaria."
MK Gadi Eizenkot commented on the demolition: "I watch with concern the irresponsible conduct of Minister Bezalel Smotritz who gives illegal instructions that contradict decades of policy in which new construction of any kind is immediately destroyed. The Prime Minister must immediately take a position similar to the hundreds of cases in which illegal outposts were destroyed during his tenure and give complete backing to the security system and the IDF."
MK Matan Kahana commented: "Defense Minister Galant does not care about Smotrich. Just imagine what would have happened if such an eviction had happened during the days of the previous government. A right-wing government indeed."
MK Merav Michaeli commented: "A crazy and extreme government harms Israel's security. The right hand doesn't know what the more extreme right hand is doing. Smotrich is going against Galant and Netanyahu, as usual, drags this feet. Look at them for a moment. This embarrassing bunch can't manage themselves, they are clearly not qualified to run a country" .
Former MK Nir Orbach commented: "It's time to formally regulate new settlements and immediately a general order that allows connection to electricity and answers their security needs. We worked to obtain a legal opinion that allows over 40 settlements to be recognized. This is the time."
The Nachala movement, which supports the building of new Israeli localities, commented: "The destruction of the settlement established in memory of Rabbi Druckman must be stopped immediately. At a time when the Arabs are taking over the hills of Judea and Samaria day by day, it is strange and puzzling that a 'right-wing government' chooses to destroy a new settlement established in memory of Rabbi Druckman. At the same time, the Arab enemy tries to harm the Jews who came to settle the Land of Israel and destroy Jewish settlements. This approach projects weakness and is a danger to the State of Israel. The time has come to make it clear that the right was elected and the left's policies must not be continued. We call for an immediate halt to the destruction of the Jewish settlement and to turn the forces against the Arab takeover."