The day after the High Court let stand its orders to demolish homes in Amona, residents were digging in, the government was redoubling its efforts to persuade them to leave, and the IDF was preparing to deal with what could turn into a very messy situation.
Already before the court confirmed its ruling Monday, activists were making preparation for a “showdown” with security forces who will, unless something changes at the last minute, be dispatched in the coming weeks, bulldozers in tow, to demolish numerous homes in the outpost that the court has ruled were built on land owned by Palestinians. Efforts to persuade the landowners to accept compensation or to accept a land swap have been thwarted by lawyers for leftist Israeli groups, and the outpost arrangement law, which would impose such swaps in the case of communities like Amona where residents have lived for decades, will not be passed in time to beat the demolition deadline, if indeed it is passed.
On Motzoei Shabbos, hundreds of right-wing activists marched to Amona, checking out the routes they could use to get to the site and strengthen the numbers, in order to make it more difficult for security forces to remove them. The roads to the site will almost certainly be closed in the days leading up to the anticipated demolition, and police will be out in force to prevent masses of people from reaching the site.
The government, meanwhile, is redoubling its efforts to persuade residents to take one of its relocation deals, which have been rejected by residents. As an alternative, the government recently authorized the construction of homes at the outpost of Shvut Rachel outside Shilo, in the Binyamin region, as substitutes for the Amona homes to be demolished. This led to an unusually harshly worded condemnation by the State Department, which said that it “strongly condemns the Israeli government’s recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank.”
That condemnation, however, is preferred over the alternative – a violent showdown with activists who will refuse to move, unless police act “aggressively.” That is what happened in 2006, when a previous court ruling demanded that residents be removed. 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.
That is a scenario that Binyamin Netanyahu, whose main coalition partners are right-wing parties like Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu, is very anxious to avoid. Speaking to Army Radio Tuesday, residents of the outpost said that they would not go quietly. “We will do everything we can to remain where we are,” one resident said. “If the soldiers come there will be many painful scenes, so painful that no one will want to see them repeated, that will prevent Jews from being evicted from their homes.” When asked whether or not there will be violence, the resident said that she personally would not raise a hand against soldiers, “but I cannot be responsible for the tens of thousands who are getting ready for this. These are things the government is not going to want to see happen.”