Two buildings were torn down in the West Bank settlement of Beit El yesterday following a tense 48-hour stand-off between Israeli security forces and settler activists protesting the court-ordered demolition.
Israel’s High Court yesterday morning rejected an eleventh-hour appeal against the demolitions, Judge Esther Chayut ruling, “The current appeal changes nothing legally.” A 2010 court order was issued to destroy the Dreinoff Buildings in Beit El, on the grounds that the property was built on land registered to Palestinians and the building did not have the correct permits. Following a lengthy legal challenge, the High Court ordered last month that the state had until today to destroy the two buildings, which contain 24 housing units. As a result, bulldozers moved in to carry out the demolitions at around midday as protesters continued to clash with security forces. Media reports counted at least nine arrests and six injuries.
The Dreinoff Building demolitions were strongly criticised throughout this week by senior Jewish Home leaders and some Likud Knesset members. Opposition MK Tzipi Livni said that government ministers have a “duty” to “stand by the High Court decision and not by… violent rioters.”
Soon after the buildings had been torn down, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to assuage the critics by giving the green light to the construction of 300 homes in Beit El. Approval had already been given to the new housing units three years ago, with construction awaiting the go ahead of the political leadership. Netanyahu also announced approval of hundreds of housing units in parts of Jerusalem which are situated beyond the pre-1967 borders, some of which had also received prior permission.
According to the Times of Israel, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon opposed the approval of new homes, fearing it may be viewed as rewarding violence. Additionally, Netanyahu was criticised by Meretz leader Zehava Galon. However, Jewish Home leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the move, saying, “I praise the prime minister for his quick, correct” decision and pledged to make sure that construction is completed.