ConstructionFlash 90

Whether Civil Administration officials disapprove of the concept of private property, or simply have trouble with reading comprehension, is of no concern to residents of Judea and Samaria who wish to build their homes, says Samaria Regional Council chairman Gershon Mesika.

Responding to the confiscation of building materials by the officials on Friday, Mesika said that materials purchased legally can -and will - be used by Jews in communities in Yesha to build their homes. And, he continued, he expects the Civil Administration to return to residents of Havat Gilad (Gilad's Farm) and Elon Moreh, both in central Samaria, the building materials that were confiscated from trucks over the weekend.

In vain the residents demanded that officials tell them under whose authority their private property was being confiscated.

“I have already requested that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discuss this issue, and Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin, who truly cares about us and aims to help us attain our rights, has promised to initiate a discussion on the Civil Administration's behavior immediately,” said Mesika.

The incident that raised the ire of Mesika, Elkin, and hundreds of residents of Elon Moreh began Friday afternoon, when a truck carrying drywall sheets purchased by residents of Havat Gilad and Elon Moreh was halted outside Havat Gilad. The drywall was to be installed in several homes in both communities, as part of construction and home-improvement projects – projects that were on hold for nearly a year because of the government's building freeze in Judea and Samaria. With the freeze over, owners of homes that have building permits are now allowed to proceed with work on their projects.

But Civil Administration officials apparently had other ideas, and their confiscation of the truck left homeowners without the materials they paid for. The IDF proudly and dramatically announced on Friday that it had confiscated the truck, issuing a statement that soldiers “observed the truck's movements and halted it, after receiving authorization to do so by the Civil Administration.”

Unfortunately for the officials, MK Elkin – a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and chairman of a subcommittee dealing with Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – was a guest of the Mesika family in Elon Moreh for Shabbat, and he observed the entire incident. In vain, Mesika, Elkin, and residents demanded that the soldiers and the Civil Administration officials tell them under whose authority private property was being confiscated, but the most they could find out was that someone “higher up” had said that anyone “importing” building materials into Judea and Samaria needed a license.

Mesika, speaking to Israel National News, called the stipulation “ridiculous. There is no such rule. I don't know if this is a matter of ideology or inability to read, but the law, which also applies to Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, does not authorize confiscation of private property without a court order, unless it is dangerous – a condition which, all would agree, does not apply to drywall.” More likely, Mesika said, the confiscation was ordered by a top official in the Defense Ministry, or by Defense Minister Ehud Barak himself.

“It is likely that Barak is trying to create his own private building freeze in order to justify his remaining in the government,” Mesika said. “But residents of Samaria are not Class D citizens, and we will not allow them to be politically persecuted. We have never seen them confiscate trucks carrying materials to illegal Arab building sites. We demand that this incident be investigated and the materials be returned.”

Asked whether residents of Judea and Samaria needed to take steps to protect their home-improvement materials – for example, transporting drills, nails, drywall, or flooring materials in the trunks of their cars, or sending them through the mail in plain brown paper wrappers – Mesika said he did not believe that would be necessary. “We intend to clarify this issue for once and for all in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. I, along with MK Elkin, spoke with many members of the committee, and most of them are indignant over this, if not furious,” Mesika said. “We intend to clarify the law to officials of the Civil Administration, and make sure that they observe it. The building freeze is over, and we intend to make sure that any Jew who wishes to build or improve his home has the opportunity to do so.”