‘Shameful, anti-Zionist’: 100s of police with bulldozers forcibly level Samaria orchard, against Smotrich’s orders

The minister said the coalition is in danger if he doesn’t immediately receive the authority he was promised over the Civil Administration, which carried out the destruction.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Large Border Police and Civil Administration forces forcibly evacuated and destroyed an orchard in the Shilo area of Samaria Wednesday morning despite the opposition of Finance Minister and Minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich, possibly sparking a coalition crisis.

Smotrich wrote an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that he freeze the eviction, which he blamed on the “delay in implementing the coalition agreement” between the Likud and his Religious Zionism party. According to the agreement, Smotrich would receive authority over the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration that is in charge of civilian matters in Judea and Samaria.

The minister wrote that based on this authority, he had ordered the cancellation of a “scandalous disruptive-use order” directed against the Ben Eliyahu family orchard; to his “shock,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “grossly violated the coalition agreement and reversed [the] decision.”

He demanded that he be given “today” the authority coming to him in the coalition deal, saying that “breach of agreements will make it very difficult for the government and the coalition to function properly.”

Netanyahu ordered a halt to the activity after the area had already been evacuated and the work of uprooting well over a thousand trees was almost complete. A senior Israeli source told Walla News that the prime minister knew about the operation ahead of time and had no objections to it, giving the order only to prevent a coalition crisis.

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The crisis may erupt anyway, it seems. The Religious Zionism party will convene an “urgent” meeting due to the “unacceptable delay” in implementing the relevant clause “that was clear to everyone…central to our coalition deal – and the basis for the coalition’s existence is the fulfillment of coalition agreements,” Smotrich said.

Hundreds of police with bulldozers and other heavy equipment entered the orchard and were met by hundreds of mostly high school-aged boys and girls who were determined to stop the destruction, some by tying themselves to the trees. According to Honenu, the organization that provides legal aid to those arrested for nationalist reasons, some 40 protestors have been detained, most of them minors.

MK Limor Son Har-Melech of the Otzma Yehudit party tried to physically block the operation by standing in front of a bulldozer. She was asked politely to get out of the way, and when she refused, she was surrounded by four burly policemen who linked arms to prevent her from moving.

“This is a shameful, anti-Zionist and anti-ethical destruction that is being carried out following a High Court ruling based on a ‘disruptive use order’ – a draconian order that is applied only against Jews,” Son Har-Melech said. “The injustice screams sevenfold when the families of Khan Al Ahmar have not yet been evicted … for years despite a High Court’s ruling.”

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According to Hashomer HaChadash, a volunteer organization that guards Jewish farms and runs educational programs to strengthen love of the land, the order is by the Civil Administration was made “against Jews who lawfully own land or other property, prohibiting them from using the property on the grounds that their very presence in the place disturbs public peace.”

According to a Channel 12 report, the family had won their land ownership case in the Civil Administration itself in 2014, but a year later, the Administration’s head cancelled the judges’ ruling by saying their appeal was flawed. When the Ben Eliyahus took the case to the High Court, the justices decided against the family.

“A fully right-wing government doesn’t destroy thousands of trees that were planted legally just for the sake of destruction,” the Ben Eliyahu family said in response to the leveling of their orchard. “This act is neither moral nor legal, and what’s most painful is that our Arab enemies see this and are greatly encouraged to continue their terrorism against Jews.”