Minister Ariel Demands Approval of Amona Legalization

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the hilltop community of Amona. (Noam Moskowitz/FLASH90)
A view of the hilltop community of Amona. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

If the government does not approve legal arrangements for Amona at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said in a radio interview, he may just have to resign from the government. Speaking to Tel Aviv Radio, Ariel said that he was very frustrated over the lack of building in Yehudah and Shomron, and especially in the way the government was handling Amona.

The Ministerial Law Committee is set to discuss two separate proposals to legalize Amona, one by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) and one by MK Shuli Muallem Rafaeli (Jewish Home).

“Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked wants to discuss Amona in the cabinet, but she has to pass everything through Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu first,” said Ariel.

“This is a big problem,” he said, because it is Netanyahu who has been holding up discussion of the matter. Ariel added that he was reaching his “red line, the limit of my patience on the matter of construction and legalizing Amona.

The Amona saga goes back to 2006, when the High Court ruled that the outpost located in the Binyamin region was built on land claimed by Palestinian families. In February of that year, police and officials of the Civil Administration evacuated and razed nine buildings, facing down 4,000 Israeli protesters in a traumatic operation that saw dozens of people, including three MKs, injured.

Since then, the state has sought ways to prevent further demolitions, although various defense ministers have insisted that the remaining homes on the site will be demolished. The original settlers of Amona claim that the land was purchased from Palestinians, a claim disputed by Peace Now, which organized a petition of the claimants to demolish the homes.

The High Court had previously ruled that houses built on land claimed by Palestinians, even if those claims are unsubstantiated, must be demolished and cannot be rebuilt for as long as a decade, as evidence is gathered regarding ownership. The court in 2014 reaffirmed its earlier ruling and insisted that all the buildings on the site be demolished.

Out of 13 ministers who will vote on legalizing Amona, seven have said that they plan to vote in favor, weekend media reports said.