Israel removes Palestinian protest settlement
Palestinians set up the Bab Al-Shams village two days ago in the sensitive E1 area, pointedly mirroring a tactic used by some Israeli settlers to establish facts on the ground.
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Netanyahu had appeared to quietly back off those plans in recent weeks, but the events in Bab Al-Shams village revived the issue. After weeks of polls showing that he was rapidly losing ground to Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, who advocates settlement and opposes a Palestinian state, Netanyahu took swift action.
"I immediately called for the area to be closed off so there would not be large gatherings there that could cause friction and breach the public order," said Netanyahu in his weekly cabinet meeting today, according to a translation by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "We will not let anyone block the continuum between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim."
A tourist destination?
The Palestinians had presented the village to Israel’s High Court of Justice as a tourist destination to learn about Bedouin culture, and had secured a temporary court injunction barring evacuation unless there was an urgent security threat.
But Israel countered over the weekend that the Palestinians had misrepresented the project and ordered all the protesters off the land until it could be determined whether it was indeed private Palestinian property, as the protesters claimed.
“An urgent evacuation is needed because of urgent security concerns in order to prevent a serious breach of public order,” wrote Osnat Mandel, a senior official in the state attorney’s office, according to Haaretz.
Mr. Seidemann says the E1 area, like many areas of the West Bank, had been declared state land – a common occurrence when no firm claims of private ownership can be made. Even within the E1 area, however, there are pockets of private ownership, says Seidemann, adding that he doesn’t know for sure the status of the land where the Bab Al-Shams village was established.
But despite the evacuation at around 2 this morning, Mr. Khatib says he sees Bab Al-Shams – named after a Lebanese novel about the yearning of Palestinians for a state of their own – as a success.
“The tents are still there,” he says, adding that a powerful message has been conveyed to the international community. “This shows the reality of the occupation forces, how they deal with [protests], how they use violence.”