Ministers and MKs gathered Wednesday night in the Knesset to discuss their next move regarding Amona, in the event that the High Court rules that the demolition it ordered of several homes at the site remains in place and is not to be postponed. The court was to issue a ruling on the request of the state to postpone the demolitions until mid-2017, but on Thursday issued a postponement of the decision at the request of the Palestinian side that is demanding the demolitions, because it said that it needed several days to finish its preparations. The court will hear the Palestinians’ response and issue its decision on the state’s request for a postponement on Sunday.
The state had requested the seven-month delay in order to arrange for a peaceful resolution of the issue, which, according to the latest plan, entails building hundreds of homes in a neighborhood of Shiloh in the Binyamin region. According to the state, the case of Amona differs significantly from that of other outposts, because the state sponsored it and poured money and resources into its establishment. The proposed solution of a land swap – which has been rejected by the Palestinians, under the advisement of leftist Israeli groups who are advising them – would be the preferable solution, and indeed the issue of unclear land title and compensation is applicable to Israel proper as well as Yehudah and Shomron. For these reasons and others, it would be worthy for the court to postpone the demolitions, if not require the Palestinians to accept a land swap.
On Wednesday, ministers and MKs discussed enhancements to a law to arrange the legal status of Amona and dozens of other outposts. Amona is just the beginning, said Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset; there are potentially dozens of other outposts that face the same problem, and a law to arrange their legal status is badly needed. “After Amona will come the turn of Ofra, and then there will be demolition orders in Eli, Beit El and many other places. Altogether there may be as many as 2,000 housing units that Palestinians claim and that could be subject to demolition. Finally the left has found a way to destroy the settlement enterprise – this is the way to view this.”
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. A law proposed by Jewish Home would replace the land claimed by Palestinians at Amona and other outposts with state land of equal or greater value that is not in dispute. Wednesday’s meeting discussed the legal and political aspects of that law, and MKs pledged to come up with an improved version that would without any doubts pass constitutional tests and objections.
“The time has come to make changes in the Israeli legal system,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. “If we do so we will not have to come back each time to deal with new challenges, as we do now. If things cannot be resolved under the current system, we will have to pass legislation to change things, and we must do so without fear of criticism.”