Residents of the four Gush Adumim settlements, in the West Bank near Jerusalem, have formed a volunteer policing unit to combat what they call a “Palestinian takeover of Gush land.” Members of the unit recently underwent training in a civil policing course.
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The unit is the second group initiative by members of the settlements of Kfar Adumim, Nofei Prat, Alon and Mitzpeh Yeriho. They also work together in the Jerusalem Periphery Forum, the objective of which is to prevent Bedouin construction on both sides of Highway No. 1 between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jericho. The Bedouin construction is partially funded by the European Union.
The forum plans to conduct patrols in the area in the coming four days (Purim and the weekend,) when Civil Administration inspectors will be on vacation. A spokesman for the forum told Haaretz that the patrols are meant to prevent a repetition of last year’s events, when the Purim vacation was exploited for the construction of 22 prefabricated buildings for Bedouin in several compounds in the area.
In early January, the settlement of Ein Prat invited “volunteers of the project for guarding the land and the residents of Gush Adumim,” to an informational evening in Kfar Adumim to be conducted by the police. It presented the initiative as “the formation of a policing unit as part of the activity for guarding the land and maintaining security in the Gush Adumim area.”
According to the Facebook post, work on the joint project with the police has been going on for a long time, and now “conditions have ripened for setting it in motion: Turning the voluntary activity to guard the land into a voluntary police unit in which the volunteers are residents of Gush Adumim.
“We will operate the unit to maintain security and guard the land of the Gush in full coordination with the Ma'aleh Adumim police and under their auspices. The volunteers will have a police volunteer card and will use police vehicles and operate according to the law, in order to prevent hostile terror activity and criminal activity, which to our regret takes place frequently in the area, and of course to prevent Palestinian takeover of Gush land.” The liaisons for the unit, according to the post, are the four security officers of the settlements, community policeman Itzik Ovadia and Yaniv Aharoni, the Jerusalem Periphery Forum’s coordinator of Gush Adumim land.
Forum spokesman Arik Ben Shimon told Haaretz that the police volunteer unit is in the final stages of formation and has not yet begun to operate. He said that the volunteers, who sign for weapons, will be accompanied by policemen, as is usual in all volunteer police units in the country, and that they will operate in the areas of the Blue Line – the master plan boundaries of the settlement area which includes the territory in which Bedouin communities are dispersed.
Dudi Asraf, spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Police District, told Haaretz in a written response that volunteer police units exist throughout the country and provide enhanced service to civilians. Each unit is headed by a community policeman and volunteers are trained according to a national standard. Once trained, they are authorized to operate in the field.
The police consider the volunteers policemen for all intents and purposes and high-quality reinforcements. “Gush Adumim volunteers have been operating for years,” Asraf wrote, though his statement contradicts the information given by the forum spokesman.
Regarding the patrols in the next four days, the forum’s Ben Shimon told Haaretz that several people had signed up and more were expected. Owners of four-wheel drive vehicles have been asked to contribute six hours of their time and to “help to patrol the Adumim area and to keep track of illegal European and Palestinian construction.”
Just patrolling the area will serve as a deterrent, Ben Shimon said. The intention is to mount similar patrols during the Passover vacation, when the Civil Administration inspectors will again be on vacation.
“The volunteers will patrol the area and will carry out surveillance and report to the police in order to prevent illegal construction designed to establish a terror state on Highway no. 1,” Ben Shimon wrote to Haaretz.
Bedouin residents report that the inspection and demolition activity of the Civil Administration and the inspection activity of the right-wing association Regavim for guarding state land has been so intensive in recent months that they had the impression that the settlers themselves were not engaged in spying on them.