Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid appeared together with Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday, at the inauguration of a rebuilt memorial for three fallen Israeli soldiers at the illegal outpost Netiv Ha’avot, in Gush Etzion. The previous memorial had been destroyed at the order of the High Court of Justice. Netiv Na'avot itself is slated for demolition.
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During the event memorializing Emanuel Moreno, Yohai Klongal and Ezra Asher, which marks the start of a campaign to halt the process of demolishing illegally built homes, the residents called on politicians to help prevent the outpost from being torn down.
Before the event, representatives of the settlement of Elazar, next to Netiv Ha’avot, met with Bennett to discuss ways to deal with September’s High Court ruling that had ordered a total of 17 illegal structures including the memorial to be razed because they were built on private Palestinian land. The memorial had to be demolished by May, while the homes must be taken down by next March.
The community representatives pointed to the success that Interior Minister Arye Dery had in getting the court to rehear a petition about keeping stores open on Shabbat in Tel Aviv, with an expanded panel of justices. They urged Bennett to see if their case could also be reconsidered.
At the ceremony, Bennett called Lapid “my brother” at the beginning of his address.
“I want to say that sometimes we may disagree, but the fact that you’re here shows me that we can extend and hand to one another, and all of can one to the other. I very much appreciate this,” Bennett said.
On the High Court ruling, Bennett said, “I call on jurists to hurry. We’ll help you. Don’t uproot what’s already been planted.”
Lapid referred to the residents’ decision to destroy the old memorial and respect the High Court’s decision. “All the regular elements of an Israeli fight were ready: A petition by a Palestinian, Peace Now’s involvement, the High Court, settlers, journalists, inciters and an Israeli society that for several years has been directing its anger at itself. We’ve become addicted to casting blame instead of taking responsibility. But not here. Not in a place where Emanuel Moreno’s name is engraved.”
Moreno, said to be the last soldier killed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, was an exceptional soldier and officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando force. He had been involved in numerous complex missions and was described by many senior officials as the spearhead of the unit.
Lapid addressed the attack in Halamish in which three members of the Salomon family were killed on Friday night, saying, “When confronted with such a murder there is no right, left or center in Israel. There are just Israelis who also have a grandfather, and who have birthday parties, and who have a state that will never yield to murderers. We choose life; there will be no government for death.”
Residents of Elazar said that starting Monday, they will be protesting in a tent across from the prime minister’s office. The representatives called on Bennett and Lapid to do all they could to stop the demolition of the homes, and blamed Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for it.
“You have to make a decision,” said the community’s rabbi, Rabbi Haim Iram. “With all due respect to the court, you can stop this.”
The representative of the Netiv Ha’avot families, Ami Gewirtzman, said, “We feel as if the court has done us a terrible injustice. We have harsh criticism for it, but the public representatives are responsible. Bennett, who’s sitting here, said that [the court decision] was a mega-attack on the settlement enterprise, but in the end the ones demolishing our homes will be the Israeli government. Not a left-wing government, a right-wing government. Again this is happening on your watch. Where is the prime minister?”
The memorial ceremony, which launches a campaign to stop the demolition of illegal structures, ended with a flag display by the settlement’s children and the singing of “Hatikva.”
A 10-year-old boy standing next to this reporter said to his friends. “It’s weird that Lapid came here. He’s a leftist.” And his friend replied “What are you talking about? Lapid is centrist. You know what centrist is?”