Roni Sofer
November 27, 2009 - 1:00am,7340,L-3811686,00.html

Officers of the Civil Administration began Friday to hand out orders to Judea and Samaria council heads commanding them to stop issuing construction permits in settlements, just two days after the cabinet decision on a 10-month settlement construction freeze.

In addition, Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed reports that his ministry sent an aircraft to photograph West Bank settlements, in order to document the construction taking place there.

Earlier Friday, Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein met with Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud) and Judea and Samaria council heads in his home in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut to discuss the freeze.

The minister told Ynet following the meeting, "I don't see anything in this decision that brings us closer to peace."

Apart from Minister Edelstein and MK Elkin, the meeting was also attended by Ariel Council head Ron Nachman, Gush Etzion Council head Shaul Goldstein, Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, Beit Aryeh Council head Avi Naim and Kiryat Arba Council head Malachi Levinger.

Edelstein added, "I will make it clear to the prime minister that even if the decision remains unchanged, Israel must find a way out in case the Palestinians continue to resist and refuse to enter negotiations. This must be done as soon as possible.

"I will ask the prime minister to ensure that the residents in Judea and Samaria live a normal life, including hundreds and thousands of operative decisions, such as compensation for hundreds of residents who are in the middle of development and construction procedures and will be forced to stop them now because of the government decision.

"We are not only talking about residents, but also about development companies, planners, architects, and so on, and we must pay attention to this," Edelstein said.

He went on to say that "the council heads we met with were very concerned. They protested the fact that this move was not coordinated with them and that they were not given any time to prepare for it. They were also concerned about the Defense Ministry's eagerness to implement the freeze right away.

"One of the council heads told me that he was contacted by supervisors before Shabbat, who were eager to hand him the orders. There is a lot of mistrust among the council heads and they are asking to sit with the prime minister immediately in order to get answers."

The council heads asked Edelstein and Elkin to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu as soon as possible. One of the issues discussed was adequately compensating the residents and council in order to allow the Judea and Samaria residents continue their normal lives.

Organizing a Likud protest

Council heads also protested the freeze in a more dramatic way. Moshe Rosenbaum, head of the Beit El Regional Council, tore up the order in front of the Civil Administration officers who handed it to him. In another move of protestation, the head of Beit Aryeh Regional Council refused to meet with the officers.

In addition to the order handed to regional council heads, the Civil Administration has also revoked all existing building permits, except in cases where concrete foundations have already been laid.

Thus the freeze orders do not include some 3,000 structures that already have foundations. Also, according to the Cabinet decision, public structures will continue to be built throughout the 10-month time period.

Goldstein noted, "We thought about how to fight the decision out of realization it was a bad one. Regardless of the meeting held today, we decided to call on all the council heads in the Likud to suspend their membership in the party for 10 months in protest of the freeze."

He added that they were considering approaching the High Court of Justice with a motion against the orders "which gravely compromise human and property rights." Goldstein said that the residents were considering closing the gates of the communities in the West bank before inspectors inform the Americans of the new construction.

Mesika stated, "We are reviewing the orders and sanctions. We shall fight with all available means the racist sanctions against Jews, and the trampling of human rights which would not have been allowed anywhere else in the world and shall not be allowed here in Israel."


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