Netanyahu Orders Hearing for Military Secretary After West Bank Outpost Eviction Goes Ahead

The prime minister accused secretary of failing to relay order to prevent Amona evacuation ■ Police chief and public security minister had been unaware of the operation, but settler sources say the army had informed them in advance

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A settler being evicted from the illegal outpost in Amona, January 3, 2019.
A settler being evicted from the illegal outpost in Amona, January 3, 2019. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused his military secretary of failing to relay his order to prevent the evacuation of a West Bank outpost in time, and asked Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Thursday to hold a disciplinary hearing for the officer.

Eisenkot agreed, and the hearing for Col. Avi Bluth is slated for Friday.

After Netanyahu landed in Israel, back from his Brazil tour for the inauguration of President Jair Bolsonaro, officials close to the prime minister were informed that the evacuation of the Amona outpost is set to go ahead. Sources close to Netanyahu said that following that update, the prime minister ordered Bluth not to carry out the eviction.

At 10 P.M. on Wednesday, military, police and border police officials discussed the details of the operation, which was approved by Central Command Chief Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan and Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Eran Niv at 10:30 P.M. The forces showed up at Amona at 4:30 A.M. on Thursday.

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Acting police commissioner Maj. Gen. Moti Cohen had been unaware of the operation, conducted in part by Border Police forces, under his command. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also claims he only found out about the evacuation through media reports in the early morning.

Erdan has ordered his staff to look into why there had been no coordination between government ministries and security agencies. He is expected to summon Cohen, as well as his security secretary, Border Police commander and the police Judea and Samaria District commander for hearings.

Settler sources said the army had informed them of the planned evacuation of Amona, which had been built on land owned by individual Palestinians, in advance, even though defense officials weren't certain at the time it would actually happen. In previous cases, the army hadn't informed settlers of planned evictions.

As a result, the settlers summoned numerous right-wing activists to their hilltop, a step that prolonged the eviction and may also have made it more violent than it would otherwise have been.

Thursday morning, the army removed the two mobile homes that had been placed in Amona, as well as the dozens of settlers who had barricaded themselves in the outpost. Seven settlers were arrested for assaulting security forces but later released.

The Border Police said the settlers burned some 300 tires at the entrance to the outpost, poured oil on the access roads and threw rocks and boulders at the police.

Bluth graduated from the pre-military academy in the settlement of Eli and was then drafted into the paratroops. He has held several operational postings as an officer.

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