It would be great if a law that would legalize Amona and other outposts retroactively could be approved by the Knesset and pass legal tests, but Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked believe that the odds of that happening aren’t too high – so they are supporting a plan to move homes in Amona that are built on disputed plots to another location on state lands, instead of an alternative plan to legalize buildings in outposts throughout Yehudah and Shomron.
Channel Ten reported that the two had met over the weekend, in the wake of a demand over the weekend by Likud MKs to demand the passage of a law that would legalize retroactively hundreds of structures in Yehudah and Shomron that have been or are likely to be challenged, with Arabs claiming that they were built on land that had been in their family for “generations.” According to the report, Bennett and Shaked believe that there is no chance that such a law could be passed, and that “it will not save Amona,” Channel Ten said.
On Motzoei Shabbos, 24 MKs from the Likud 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 whom were 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.
On Monday, the youth wing of Jewish Home called for a major rally in support of Amona and for passage of the overall law to approve outpost construction. The Likud ministers and MKs will be there, they promised the organizers of the rally, as will all Jewish Home MKs – except, it appears, MK Nissan Slomiansky, who has so far been the only Jewish Home MK to speak out in support of moving Amona rather than legalizing it in its current form.
“It is amazing that Amona supporters are in favor of the overall law,” Slomiansky said. “Even the most right-wing of right-wing governments is likely to want to go up against the High Court, which will almost definitely declare such a law illegal. It is also highly unlikely that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government would support such a law, even if almost all Likud MKs back it, considering that in 2012 he instructed party MKs to vote against it,” he said, adding that the Likud MKs know this perfectly well, too, and that their support of the overall law is just a smokescreen, a diversionary tactic to avoid making a specific commitment to Amona while taking credit for “trying” to legalize it.
In response to the Channel Ten report, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) said he would continue supporting the overall law. Regarding the argument that the High Court will strike it down, Smotrich said that “they can believe what they want, but I say different. I am going to demand that both Jewish Home and Likud support this law, if they expect to be considered part of a right-wing government.” Last week, Smotrch said that he and other Jewish Home MKs would vote against the passage of the state budget without the overall legalization law. “Governments are supposed to pass legislation that advances 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, he said.