Netanyahu promises to speed up Arab demolitions as settlers resist eviction
TEL AVIV - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Friday on residents of a wildcat Jewish settlement in the illegally occupied West Bank to refrain from violence against security forces during their imminent eviction.
"My heart is with you," Netanyahu said in an address to 40 families facing a court order to leave the Amona outpost by December 25 because it was found to have been built on private Palestinian land.
The Amona residents had rejected early Thursday a government proposal to leave voluntarily, raising fears of violence as the relocation deadline approached.
"I call on everyone to act responsibly -- do not harm IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers or security forces in any way. These are our sons," Netanyahu said in a video posted on his Facebook page.
"There is no room for violence," he said, calling on Amona parents to keep their children away from the outpost during the eviction, the date of which is not publicly known.
Netanyahu also stressed the importance of upholding the law which also applies to illegal Arab construction in Israel.
"The court ruling binds us all, it binds the government too. But the law must be equitable. The same law that necessitates Amona's evacuation necessitates the evacuation of illegal construction in other parts of our country," he said.
"I have therefore ordered to expedite the demolition of illegal construction in the Negev, in Wadi Ara, the Galilee, the centre -- in all parts of the country," Netanyahu said of areas with significant Palestinian populations. "I won't tolerate double standards in enforcing construction (laws) between Israeli citizens, whether Jewish or Arab."
The dispute over whether to demolish the Amona outpost northeast of Ramallah has taken on international importance because of concern over settlement expansion in the West Bank, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not.
Settlements such as Amona -- those that Israel has not approved -- are called 'outposts'.
Amona residents responded to Netanyahu's video, saying they "were not seeking empathy."
"We expect the person leading a state to be capable of finding a way to prevent the terrible injustice about to happen," a statement issued by a spokesman for the 'outpost' said.