Knesset Debate Opens on Amona Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

The contentious issue of the fate of outpost communities in Yehudah and Shomron came before the Knesset for debate on Tuesday, with legal experts presenting opinions on both sides of the divide.

A special joint session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees first heard a presentation from Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon, who critiqued the so-called Amona bill, which would allow the state to compensate Palestinians who have a claim to land on which an outpost is built, rather than demolish the outpost.

Yinon said that the standard set by the High Court for legal settlements in Yehudah and Shomron is that they must be built on state land.

“Any other arrangement could undermine the legal status of all settlements,” he warned.

In addition, Yinon said monetary compensation for the loss of land does not meet Israeli law for legal cost-benefit criteria.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s by now well-known position that the bill will not survive High Court review was read out by Anat Assif of the Justice Ministry. The salient point: “There is no place to promote this bill because of its severe unconstitutionality.”

However, the bill also had its legal proponents. Dr. Uriel Arnon, an attorney who represented some of the residents of Amona, still slated for demolition on December 25, noted that the Court’s own ruling on the disengagement in Gaza stated that it is legal to pass laws that apply to Yehudah and Shomron, and that the specific system in dealing with land disputes is not under the purview of international law.

Yossi Fuchs, chairman of the right-wing Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, argued that existing laws allow state expropriation of land even when private ownership is proven, and that, in any case, ownership of the land on which Amona stands has not been proven.

“The state admitted that it is private land, but doesn’t know whose. In addition, unlike in regular expropriation, the commander of the area does not allow anyone to use the land…so whoever will be recognized as owner will receive compensation for something he will never be able to use,” Fuchs stated.

The politicians had their say, as well. Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) was in favor of the bill, saying it is at the heart of democracy.

“After 50 years [since the Six Day War], the legislature must deal with 450,000 of our emissaries whose status is in the air,” Slomiansky said. “We want a strong and stable judiciary, just like we want a strong and stable legislature, and we do not want to harm either one.”

MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp), however, vehemently opposed the bill as an attempt to annex Yehudah and Shomron by illegal means. “The result will be a binational state that will not be democratic.

”The Palestinians will demand the right to vote in the Knesset and will go en masse to the voting booth – that is the real danger,” she said.

Livni also said the bill gives the BDS movement ammunition to use against Israel and endangers IDF soldiers in international courts.