Without a state budget approved, the government falls – and MK Betzalel Smotrich is recommending that MKs in his Jewish Home party vote against approval of the budget in the Knesset when it comes up for a vote unless a law is first passed guaranteeing the future of the community of Amona. “Governments are supposed to pass legislation that advance its interests, and we must pass legislation to advance settlement,” said Smotrich. In the case of Amona, that means passing a law to preserve the community in its current location and in its current form.
Proposals to move the community to an alternative location – a proposal that Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett said he would consider – are unacceptable, Smotrich said. “We will not make ‘land deals’ in Yehudah and Shomron. Last year the government promised to build 300 new homes in exchange for the evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, but that has not taken place yet. We must state loudly and clearly that we will not accept a repeat of the disengagement.”
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 protestors 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.
Earlier this week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that there was no alternative to removing Amona. “There is no way the community can remain in place, as there is a definitive High Court ruling on the matter. We are a country of laws and the laws must be followed.” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan echoed Liberman’s comments, saying that “even if we have criticisms, the High Court’s ruling must be carried out.”