AG vs. Hevron, Yesha Council vs. Protestors

The IDF and Police have been joined by the Yesha Council in their efforts to rid Hevron of the activists that have come to protect the Shalhevet neighborhood from destruction.

Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 7:39 AM

Police and IDF soldiers set up roadblocks and checkpoints Tuesday morning in a bid to remove protestors who have gathered there to prevent the destruction of Hevron's Shalhevet neighborhood. According to the military order enacted Monday night, non-residents must request special permission from the army to enter Hevron until January 22nd. Photos of the massive police and IDF presence in the town can be viewed by clicking here.

The regional police commander announced that the use of tear gas and pepper spray have been authorized for use against the protestors. Activists say that the police have already admitted publicly to using such means against non-violent demonstrators last week while destroying a home in the Gush Etzion community of Sde Boaz. They attribute the announcement to a concerted effort to intimidate other activists from showing up to fight the expulsion.

Yesha Council chairman Bentzy Lieberman sharply attacked the young protestors who have converged in Hevron, telling Army Radio Tuesday morning that residents of Hevron must "vomit out the youths, who are undermining and ruining the chances of the people of Israel hearing the very justified arguments for a Jewish presence in the Shalhevet neighborhood."

Last week, just hours after a home in Sde Boaz, north of the Gush Etzion town of Neve Daniel, was demolished, senior Yesha Council member Shaul Goldstein told Channel Two TV that he was extremely upset that a beeper message had gone out calling upon youth to oppose the destruction at Sde Boaz. "Somebody sent out erroneous beeper messages saying the entire outpost was being destroyed and it led to all the young people coming there," he said. "We made an agreement that the house would be dismantled and the residents violated that deal – I was against the construction in the first place." Residents say that no such agreement existed. Land of Israel activists say that the Yesha Council is frustrated that an alternative activist network has sprung up that is not in their control.

The Yesha Council consists of the mayors of various municipalities in Judea and Samaria, in addition to functionaries chosen by those members. Although it was formed in order to provide logistical support for Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it led the struggle against the Disengagement plan, declared the acceptable ways to struggle and even called for Likud members to not vote for Moshe Feiglin prior to the Likud chairman primaries.

"They are an unelected body that derives their power from convincing the government they have us 'under control' while making back-room deals to salvage what they can of Judea and Samaria," one activist told Arutz-7. "They believe the outposts and everything outside the separation barrier are a lost cause and many are already looking to build their own 'unauthorized outposts' in the next government. They are absolutely outraged that the struggles being waged now are being waged not just without them, but successfully despite them. They may now go back to worrying about local budgets and leave the struggle against the expulsion to the young people."

That grassroots activist network that has begun to supplement the council's high-budget rallies, consisting mostly of young people sending the word on anti-expulsion efforts out via SMS messages and mass emails, brought people streaming toward Hevron as it became apparent the government intends to destroy the Shalhevet neighborhood.

Hevron's residents and leaders remain baffled as to why the army insists on carrying out the forced expulsion of residents living in the Shalhevet neighborhood. Hevron spokesman David Wilder explained to Arutz-7 that the community had already worked out a solution to the impasse, which complied with the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter. The court ruled that although the marketplace is indisputably Jewish-owned, the residents currently residing in it must be evicted because they entered without permission from the army. The solution, recommended as the "optimal solution" by two out of three judges in the court ruling, would remove the current residents willingly, have the land leased to the Jewish community by the IDF, and see other Jewish residents replace the old ones - so as not to "reward lawbreakers," as the court stated.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, however, rejected the proposal, saying that the eviction must not be delayed any longer. "He effectively rejected the opinion of the Supreme Court," Wilder said.

Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Meir Indor, who heads the Almagor Terror Victims Association, brought up the absurd legal situation when he was interviewed by Israel Radio Tuesday morning. Indor was asked how he could allow his 16-year-old daughter to join protesters in Hevron who the interviewer referred to as "lawbreakers."

"The lawbreakers are the politicians in uniforms of the police and IDF who are making cynical use of the drastic security legal condition of 'closed military zone' in order to prevent legitimate protest and improve the Kadima Party's standing in the polls," Indor responded. "I wish I could take off from work and join my daughter there and you can be sure that once anyone touches the Shalhevet neighborhood, many of us will drop what we are doing and come prevent it as well."

Hevron resident and director of the Human Rights for Residents of Judea and Samaria organization Orit Struck responded to the Yesha Council's call for the Jewish residents to expel the young Jewish activists saying that anybody who is not in the city has no idea what is going on there and is forced to rely on the reports of a very hostile press corps. "These youth are incredibly dedicated, and have committed themselves to a determined struggle, whose ground rules we have reviewed with them," she said.

Hevron resident David Wilder issued a statement Monday evening outlining several distortions being broadcast by the media regarding the protests going on in the city. He added nothing but praise for the young activists: "These youth are neither hoodlums or hooligans, as the media are calling them," said Wilder. "Rather, they are some of the most ideologically motivated people in Israel today. These kids are true lovers of their land. These youngsters are still crying the pain of expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Samaria. Their hearts are still bleeding the wounds of our land being abandoned to our enemies. They hurt the hurt of thousands of homeless Jews, who committed no crime but to live in Gush Katif."

Addressing the determined and sometimes violent nature of the youth's protests, Wilder said: "Sixteen-year-olds don’t react the same way as fifty-year-olds. Sometimes, the reactions are exaggerated," he said, adding that one must contrast these young people with the dozens of youth stabbed at Israeli nightclubs due to romantic squabbles, drugs and alcohol every weeken. "These young in Hevron are fighting for the good of our land, of our people and of our Torah."