Amid criticism from right, Netanyahu defends decision to remove Hebron settlers

(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his defense minister’s decision to force settlers from two newly occupied homes in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron.

After numerous right wing politicians fiercely criticized Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Friday, Netanyahu reiterated his support for settlements and admiration of settlers, but said, “We are all bound to respect the law,” the Times of Israel reported, citing Channel 10.

Israeli troops on Friday morning removed several dozen settlers from the adjacent Hebron buildings, which the settlers had entered the previous day, saying they had bought them from Palestinians. Ya’alon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the settlers had not received IDF authorization to enter the buildings and were there illegally.

“The State of Israel is a nation of laws, and I have no intention of compromising when the law is broken,” he said in a statement, adding that in this particular case “the law was brazenly broken.”

In a statement, the Jewish Home party called the decision to evacuate the Hebron homes “irresponsible, bullheaded and inflammatory.”

In addition, the Times of Israel reported, three Knesset members from the Likud and Jewish Home parties threatened to boycott coalition votes unless Ya’alon reversed his decision.

The Hebron evacuation came on the heels of Israel confirming its controversial plan to seize land near Jericho, also in the West Bank, despite opposition to the move by the United Nations and the United States.

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