Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sparred Sunday with Education Minister Naftali Bennett over the latter’s insistence on presenting to the Ministerial Law Committee a law that would arrange for the legalization of long-standing outposts in Judea and Samaria, among them Amona. Netanyahu, who is seeking to prevent the Committee from voting on whether or not to back the legislation when it comes up for a Knesset vote, called Bennett “childish and irresponsible” for his plans. “You are gaining a momentary victory while we are trying to get a postponement of the demolition orders from the High Court,” Netanyahu said.
Chiming in to defend Netanyahu was Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who said that Netanyahu had never said he was opposed to the bill, which would institute a land swap in the case of situations like Amona, where homes have been standing for decades but the land ownership is claimed by Palestinians. Netanyahu said that he was capable of defending himself. “I don’t need special defenses against spin doctors, politicians, or the media, and not against bloggers” who slam him for not being rightwing enough. “The State Attorney told me clearly that presenting this law at this time would hurt our case with the High Court,” he said.
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 at Amona 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.
Before the meeting, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said that he trusted the court to rule “based on the issues,” and that presenting the law to ministers should not be relevant to the court’s decision. Earlier, Jewish Home MKs said that they would brook no further delays in presenting the law to the ministers. “The 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 MK Betzalel 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.”