Court Dismisses Petitions Against Amichai, Amona’s ‘Replacement’ Settlement

Bulldozers at work on the site of the new community of Amichai, in the Shomron. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court on Wednesday dismissed petitions by leftist groups against construction in Amichai, the town that was built for Israelis who were evicted from their homes in Amona. The court said that the petitions were based on criteria that did not affect the planning or legal status of the town, and as such were not fit to be adjudicated in court.

Amichai is near Shiloh, a bit further south from where Amona was located. The town will eventually have 1,100 homes, and all former residents of Amona will receive homes there. Construction began in 2017, after the last residents of Amona left their homes. The first homes in the new town went to those who had lived in Amona, and a number of families are already living there.

In their petitions, Yesh Din, Peace Now, and other leftist groups demanded that the site be evacuated and demolished. The planning committee that approved the town, the petitioners said, “did not investigate whether there was even a need for establishing a town on the site designated.” In addition, it said that the committee “did not evaluate the impact of its plan on the Palestinian population living in the area, as well as the impact of the plan on the environment and transportation issues.” In its response, the court said that those criteria did not apply, as the only issues the court could consider was the legality of the town itself and whether it was built on privately owned Arab land.

The site chosen was the scene of numerous attempts to set up an unauthorized outpost – and as many attempts by police and the IDF to tear down the tents and temporary structures that spring up there occasionally. Considered a bastion of the “hilltop youth,” the site was frequently on the radar of police who sought to question activists about various “price tag” attacks. Infrastructure work at the site began a year ago in June, and after several starts and stops, was finally completed in February of this year.

In 2006, the state forcibly evacuated residents from Amona. Then, 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. 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 Shomron – and were bitterly criticized for both moves by Binyamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister. The February 2017 evacuation did not engender the same protests, because of the government’s promise to build Amichai.