Home  > Historical Perspectives
Barak draws fire over evacuation of Hebron house (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Allon and Yori Yalon 04/05/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3833 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Security officials say settlers planned to connect Kiryat Arba and Hebron just ahead of Passover, when many people visit the area making evacuation difficult • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voices support for decision, citing need for rule of law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he fully supported Defense Minister Ehud Barak´s decision to evacuate Jewish settlers from a contested house in Hebron on Wednesday.

The move came as a complete surprise to most of the Israeli political system, which was under the uniform impression that the evacuation – initially planned for Tuesday but consequently postponed – had been delayed until the end of the month.

"There is one principle that we adhere to," Netanyahu said Wednesday. "We do everything in an effort to uphold the law, and we will continue to do so."

Barak had maintained the need to evict the occupants of the house from the start of the weeklong showdown, citing the fact that they had entered the property, situated in a sensitive area under the authority of Israel´s security forces in a city largely populated by Palestinians, without acquiring the requisite authorization in advance. He briefed the prime minister on Wednesday morning informing him of his intent to evacuate the property.

The evacuation was carried out swiftly after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein informed Netanyahu of his position that the house had to be evacuated immediately. In a statement, Weinstein said there was no need for a governmental decision to clear the building, as its evacuation was a necessary condition if law and order were to be upheld.

The Hebron house, dubbed "Beit Hamachpelah" thanks to its proximity to the Cave of the Patriarchs (known in Hebrew as "Ma´arat Hamachpelah"), was evacuated despite opposition from many government officials. During a late-night meeting on Tuesday, senior ministers pleaded with Netanyahu to stop Barak from implementing the eviction order that he had issued, but Netanyahu sided with Barak. Several officials have criticized Netanyahu, calling him "Barak´s hostage."

Security officials explained on Wednesday that the surprise evacuation was necessary because the settlers had allegedly planned to create a strategic contiguous Jewish passage connecting Kiryat Arba and Hebron just ahead of Passover. During the course of the holiday, many Israelis come to the area to celebrate, which would make evacuation more difficult.

Netanyahu stipulated, however, that if the settlers could use proper channels to prove ownership of the property and their right to inhabit it, the defense establishment would not try to stop them from re-populating the premises, even if their re-entry would constitute a disturbance of the peace. Netanyahu furthermore asked Barak to make sure that the property is protected in the meantime.

The evacuation drew a lot of fire from the coalition, directed mainly at Barak. Ministers from the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu (the coalition´s biggest parties) warned Wednesday that the coalition would not survive further evacuations. The general consensus is that, despite the overwhelming criticism, the Hebron evacuation would not have significant political ramifications.

However, the evacuation is likely to exact a political toll on Barak. Political analysts surmised that there was almost no chance now that Netanyahu would reserve a Likud seat for Barak in the next Knesset (assuming Netanyahu wins the next election, which seems likely). According to Likud officials, the possibility that Barak would be appointed defense minister even if he is not elected into Knesset, has also become far less likely.

Netanyahu came out in Barak´s defense, saying, "There is no need to shoot the messenger. The defense minister is simply doing his job faithfully. You must understand that the legal system made this move obligatory."

Danny Dayan, chairman of Yesha (the council of the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria) harshly criticized Netanyahu on Wednesday, saying, "He sold Hebron for a second time. In 1997 he gave up most of Hebron to Yasser Arafat and in 2012 he sold the Jews´ right to inhabit their property, which was legally purchased. If the Cabinet ministers are anything but marionettes, they must make a majority decision to immediately restore the Jewish buyers to their home."

On the other hand, opposition party Kadima and left-wing factions welcomed Barak´s surprise evacuation. Newly elected Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday, "The law is the law and it trumps any political consideration. When the legal system makes a decision – we must execute it."

Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich also lauded the move, saying, "The attorney-general and the defense minister were right to protect the defense establishment and the rule of law from being trampled."

Return to Top