Gov’t to Discuss Law on Legalizing Outposts Sunday

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)

Dozens of Amona supporters protested Motzoei Shabbos outside the homes of government ministers, demanding the passage of the Outposts Arrangement Law, which will retroactively legalize not only Amona, but dozens of other outposts. In one protest outside the home of Naftali Bennett, the education minister emerged and told the crowd that his Jewish Home party would do its best to pass the law, but he feared that the Likud would work to oppose it.

Speaking Motzoei Shabbos, MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli, Jewish Home whip, said that she expected the law to be approved Sunday when it is discussed by the Ministerial Law Committee. “If Prime Minister Netanyahu understands that 50 years after the miracle of the Six-Day War the issue of Jewish settlement should be finalized, he himself should support the law. There is certainly a large majority in his party that approves of it.”

Netanyahu has expressed opposition to the law, which would effectively cancel a High Court ruling that homes at Amona claimed by Palestinians must be demolished. According to Israeli law, the mere claim of a dispute is sufficient to require demolition of homes built by Jews, even if no evidence is presented. Once the homes are demolished, the process of clarifying to whom the land actually belongs can begin. The law proposed by Jewish Home would replace the land claimed by Palestinians at Amona and other outposts with state land of an equal or greater value that is not in dispute.

Muallem-Refaeli said that if Netanyahu was interested in preventing the passage of the law but did not want to “burn his bridges” with the right, he should do more to ensure that the homes at Amona were protected – and if they were, Jewish Home would withdraw the bill. “If he dedicated to Amona 10 percent of the time he is dedicating to the fate of the public broadcasting system the issue would be solved, and we would pull the law,” she said.

In an interview with Army Radio Thursday, Bennett said that Jewish Home had tried numerous approaches to protecting Amona, but Netanyahu had so far refused to cooperate. Bennett said he expected wide support for the bill in the Likud. In September, 26 MKs from the Likud, among them nine ministers, signed a petition demanding that the government pass a law similar to the one to be discussed Sunday.

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.