Coalition Roiled by Issue of Illegal Outposts

By Hamodia Staff

Residents of Shomron try to rebuild Or Chaim illegal outpost, named after late religious Zionist leader Rabbi Chaim Druckman, in the West Bank, on January 22, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — The issue of illegal outposts in Yehuda and Shomron was the cause of further friction within the coalition on Monday, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ to intervene, saying that his government will not tolerate illegal building by either Palestinians or Israelis.

The point of contention in recent days has been the unauthorized new Ohr Chaim outpost in the Shomron. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the dismantling of structures on the site, overriding Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, who now has nominal charge of civilian affairs in the region.

The outpost was taken down on Friday, and when activists returned on Sunday to re-establish it, soldiers prevented them, and seven were arrested.

“We’ll fight against Palestinian illegal building,” promised Netanyahu at a Likud faction meeting, but stipulating adding that “it doesn’t mean that we’ll enable illegal Israeli building” in Area C of Yehuda and Shomron, which is under full Israeli control, and where Ohr Chaim is located.

“What’s important to me is that all heads of the coalition agree upon this,” the premier added, according to The Times of Israel.

Smotrich did not seem to agree.

“The time has come for the residents of Yehuda and Shomron to stop being second-class citizens living under a military regime and to receive high-quality civil services like all citizens of Israel,” Smotrich said, adding, “that is why we intend to act to take all civil matters out of the hands of the army.”

The events at Ohr Chaim have led right-wing MKs to press for the evacuation of an illegal Palestinian site Khan al-Ahmar.

“All the necessary permissions are on the table, including the approval of the High Court of Israel, it’s just up to the defense minister and the prime minister to decide,” said Yuli Edelstein, a Likud MK and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“I think the sooner the actions will be taken, the less problems it will create,” he said.

In 2018, after years of legal battles, the Court ruled in favor of demolition of the site, which was built without construction permits. Palestinians say such permits are virtually impossible for them to obtain.

Khan al-Ahmar has become a cause celebre for Palestinians and international bodies including the European Union, who have opposed evacuation.

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