Sunday is “do or die” for the approval of a law that would arrange the legality of long-standing outposts in Yehudah and Shomron, among them Amona, Jewish Home MKs Betzalel Smotrich and Shuli Moallem said Motzoei Shabbos. “There are no more excuses,” said Smotrich.
“The [legal] arrangement of outposts must be instituted, not only out of our moral obligation to the people who live there, but from an ideological point of view,” said Smotrich. “This is a right-wing government which should be doing right-wing things. The excuse that the American government stands in our way is no longer an excuse,” Smotrich added, referring to the perception that President-elect Donald Trump has said that he does not see Israeli settlements as an “obstacle to peace.”
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, with the demolition set to take place no later than the end of 2016.
The state has requested a seven-month delay of the demolitions 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 law would entail requiring a land swap as the preferred solution, with outposts like Amona that have been on the ground for decades remaining intact, and Palestinians receiving alternative land of equal or greater value from state lands. The idea of land swaps has been rejected by the Palestinians, under the advisement of leftist Israeli groups who are advising them. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also expressed opposition to the law.
“If we have to, we will conduct an unceasing and uncompromising struggle to get this law approved and end the saga whereby the law-abiding citizens of Amona and other towns are under threat of eviction,” Smotrich added. “We want to enable them to live normal lives without worry like all other Israelis.”