Tense Weekend of Waiting and Worrying in Amona

View of the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, on December 9, 2016. Residents of the settlement are preparing for the planned evacuation in the coming weeks. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ????? ????? ????? ??????? ?????? ?????? ?????
Activist youths davening in Amona, Friday. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Residents and visitors in Amona spent a tense weekend awaiting an evacuation that didn’t materialize, as police, Border Guards and the IDF were ordered to go home late Friday, after rumors flew Thursday that the forced removal of residents from their homes would take place Motzoei Shabbos. The state, said coalition chairman MK David Bitan over the weekend, is still searching for ways to ensure that residents are able to remain on the hilltop, even if the homes they are living in now are to be demolished on orders of the High Court, based on claims by Arabs that they own the land.

On Thursday, the Civil Authority published plans for the construction of caravans on several parcels of land on the Amona hilltop that are state lands and that until now have not been the matter of any dispute or claims by Arabs. If no objections are filed to the plans by the end of Sunday, the parcels can be prepared immediately for the construction of caravans for the Amona evictees.

Armed with this plan, the state plans to address the High Court Sunday with another request for a postponement of the evacuation of Amona. While a similar request was denied by the High Court a month ago, the state is hopeful that the court will be more amenable now, as a deal to end the Amona issue – which has been in the courts for well over a decade – has finally been worked out. In the decision last month, High Court chief justice Miriam Naor slammed the state, saying that it had been given two years to come up with a solution, but had wasted its time. The original eviction orders were issued in 2014, and the court has repeatedly postponed the date.

The evacuation of Amona is the result of a deal worked out between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett that saw the passage on its first reading of the Settlements Arrangement Law, which will prevent future Amonas by requiring Arabs who claim that Jewish homes are built on land they own – as is the case in Amona – to submit to an arbitration process that would provide them with compensation in land or money.

While many in the opposition have slammed the bill, saying it would never pass the scrutiny of the High Court, Bitan said over the weekend that the government expected State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit to defend the law before the court. “If the State Attorney will not defend the law, we will hire private attorneys to do so,” Bitan said.

Meanwhile, the Amona Residents Committee expressed relief that the evacuation has not yet taken place. In a statement Sunday, the Committee said that it would “utilize the days until the December 25th deadline to follow up on every possibility and to demand that elected officials, especially the education minister and prime minister, fulfill their commitments and find a solution that will keep Amona intact.”

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