Amona Residents to Meet Over Proposed Evacuation Deal

YERUSHALAYIM -
Men davening in Amona on Friday. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Men davening in Amona. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Amona residents are to meet Wednesday to discuss the evacuation plan presented to them Monday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The residents will decide whether to accept or reject the plan, which will entail their moving from their homes to caravans on the other side of the hilltop Amona is located on. They will be able to remain there temporarily until homes that are being built for them in Shiloh, a community several kilometers away, are ready.

The state is supposed to demolish homes at Amona by order of the High Court by December 25th, and the government has been desperately searching for a way to remove the residents without generating painful scenes of Jewish soldiers and police carrying off tearful and angry children and teenagers – scenes reminiscent of the 2006 Amona evacuation.

Under the plan developed by Bennett, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit, the residents will move to five parcels on the Amona hilltop that are currently being administered by the state under the Absentee Property Law. The evacuated residents will stay in those caravans for several months, until new homes in Shiloh that are to be built for them are ready. The area on the hilltop to be allocated to the residents consists of five large parcels, a total of 55 dunams of land.

Sources close to Amona residents said that many of them are willing to take the deal, but fear that if they do they may be stuck with a deal that could be questioned by the High Court, preventing their moving into the caravans and forcing them to leave the hilltop altogether. The state is likely to ask for a further delay of 30 days to demolish the homes in order to finalize the deal. Government sources said that the court would likely be much more amenable to granting that delay, which includes a stipulation that requires the residents to leave their homes willingly.

The government has been working very hard to work out a deal for Amona residents to avoid repeats of the events of 2006. Then, police and officials of the Civil Administration evacuated and razed nine buildings in Amona, facing down 4,000 Israeli protesters in a traumatic operation that saw dozens of people, including three MKs, injured. Leading the country at that time was Ehud Olmert, who was acting Prime Minister after Ariel Sharon had a massive stroke in January.

Both Sharon and Olmert, leaders of the Kadima party, had already shown their willingness to forcibly remove Jews from their homes a year earlier during the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria – and were bitterly criticized for both moves by Binyamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister. Netanyahu, needless to say, has been very anxious to avoid a repeat of those scenes during his administration, but residents have said they will not make it easy for them.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people braved heavy rains and winds to protest the Amona evacuation outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Yerushalayim. “When they first tried to get us to leave Amona, the government told us ‘take a lot, build yourself a home elsewhere,’ but we refused,” Avichai Boaron, chairman of the Amona Residents Committee, said at the demonstration. “Now, because of our obstinacy, the Settlements Arrangement Law will be adopted by the government. Thanks to us, thousands of homes in Yehudah and Shomron will be saved. We want our homes to be saved as well. I promise you – Amona will remain. The Israeli people will fight with us, if we are forced to fight.”