Facing Demolitions, Ofra Residents Say They Won’t Go Quietly

A view of Ofra, in Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

While the state is set to find a solution for residents of Amona, whose homes are to be demolished in the middle of February, no solution currently exists for residents of the nearby town of Ofra, where the High Court has ordered that nine homes be demolished. And unlike in Amona, residents there are likely to put up a fight, as they wrote to MKs in a letter Thursday.

Like in Amona, the nine homes in a neighborhood on the edge of Ofra are built on land claimed by Arabs. Currently, under Israeli law, such claims are enough to warrant the demolition of homes even before proof of ownership is supplied, with the High Court ruling that the adjudication of whether or not the land is actually owned by absentee Arabs is decided when the land is vacated.

There are actually several dozen demolition orders for homes in towns throughout Yehudah and Shomron that the High Court has issued on the basis of these rules. Such demolitions would be halted under the Settlements Arrangement Law, which would replace the current process with a new arbitration process that would, among other things, advocate land swaps that would replace the land claimed by Palestinians with state land of equal or greater value that is not in dispute. The law is designed to prevent the demolition of homes at outposts and settlements that were built in good faith, but later were discovered to be built on private land.

The Settlements Arrangement Law has passed its first Knesset reading, but in a version that did not find favor in the homes in Amona – or in Ofra, or any of the other targets of demolition. In their letter, residents said that they did not intend to be the next victims of this process, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had the power to prevent the demolition of their homes.

“Ofra was established in 1975 with the support of the government,” the residents wrote. “If the government does not act, Ofra will come to know one of its saddest days ever. We demand that the status of the land on which these homes be changed to allow them to remain intact. We expect and demand that the Prime Minister act to prevent the demolition of these homes and remove the threat once and for all.

“Any bulldozers that attempt to enter this town and demolish those homes will face a determined opposition,” the residents wrote.

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