Likud Ministers, MKs Demand Amona Legalization

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the Jewish outpost community of Amona. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
A view of the Jewish outpost community of Amona. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Twenty-four MKs from the Likud on Motzoei Shabbos met to discuss the fate of Amona, as it appeared that attempts to relocate buildings that were built on disputed lands to other areas fell through. The MKs, among them nine ministers, signed a petition demanding that the government pass a proposed law that would legalize the community.

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.

Among the signers of the petition are government ministers Yuval Steinetz, Yisrael Katz, Ze’ev Elkin, Gilad Erdan, Yariv Levin, Haim Katz, Miri Regev, Ofir Akuniam and Gila Gamliel. Joining them were coalition chairman David Bitan, deputy ministers Tzippy Hotovely, Ayoub Kara, Yaron Mazouz and Viki Levy. MKs Yehuda Glick, Yoav Kisch and Miki Zohar are also signed on.

The petition demands that the government approve a law “to legally arrange the homes in outposts and to prevent a moral, human and social tragedy that would result from the evacuation of hundreds and thousands of families who built their homes with the approval of governments of Israel.” Bitan said that “there is no point in just passing a law to protect Amona, as in February we will face a challenge to another 11 homes in Efrat. Thus we need an overall law to arrange the legality of these homes.”

Last 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 a definitive High Court ruling on the matter exists. 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.”

In June, Zohar proposed a bill that would postpone the demolition of homes against which orders to demolish have been issued for as long as seven years, allowing the owners of the homes to sort out legal issues without becoming homeless. According to Zohar, “we must do everything we can to prevent harm to the residents and allow the state time to prepare for evacuations. It’s unreasonable to evict Jews overnight based on a court ruling. A seven-year delay is logical and proper, especially in cases where no ownership of the land can be proven.”