Barak draws fire over evacuation of Hebron house (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Allon and Yori Yalon 04/05/12)
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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
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
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
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