Israel braces for trouble when 1,000 Jews expelled from West Bank homes

Special to

TEL AVIV — Israel’s military and police have been preparing for
massive Jewish unrest amid plans to destroy unauthorized communities in the
West Bank.

An Israeli flag fluttering over a view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra. /Reuters

Officials said the military and police were intensifying training and
non-lethal weapons procurement ahead of plans to destroy nearly 100
unlicensed Jewish homes in the West Bank. They said the law enforcement
community, including the Israel Security Agency, was preparing for massive
resistance as well as retaliation on police, Army and nearby Palestinians.

“The next few weeks will be crucial,” an official said.

The military and police have been ordered to prepare for a campaign in which at least 1,000 Jews would be expelled from their homes in the West Bank. In November, the pace of the demolition of Jewish homes intensified, with Army and police assaults on unauthorized Jewish communities near such
West Bank cities as Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah.

Security sources have acknowledged that the Army-police units have been using stun grenades and rubber bullets in their operations. On Nov. 7, police and soldiers, most of them wearing body armor, opened fire with rubber bullets toward the community of Oz Zion. Twelve civilians were arrested amid what was termed intense resistance.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been warned by members of his
Likud Party that the demolition campaign could lead to an electoral
backlash. Netanyahu has been besieged by appeals from parliamentarians and
rabbis to suspend the operation, planned amid Palestinian missile and rocket
attacks from the Gaza Strip.

“Although I respect him, he must under no circumstance destroy these
communities,” former Israeli Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said.

Netanyahu has appointed a committee to examine the fate of unauthorized
Jewish communities in the West Bank. The panel has been chaired by former
Israeli military judge advocate-general Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelbilt,
regarded as close to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“Further demolitions will create a rift,” parliamentarian Yariv Levin, a
Likud member, said. “The ball is in the government’s court and everything
depends on its will to stop these demolitions.”

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