Facing a court-ordered evacuation, residents of the settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank are digging in for a fight to the finish. Vowing fierce but nonviolent resistance, they have built shelters, bathrooms and a large kitchen to host thousands of supporters they hope will join them in their struggle to stay put. With the December 25 evacuation date approaching, Israel’s pro-settlement government is scrambling to find a solution, fearing a repeat of the violent showdown between extremist settlers and security forces that took place on this same wind-swept hilltop a decade ago.
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers were taking part in a training exercise this week at an IDF base in southern Israel ahead of the evacuation of the West Bank outpost of Amona, set for later this month. The training was conducted at the Tzeelim base in the Negev Desert. Simulations of various scenarios included the forcible evacuation of people passively resisting and violent reactions as well. The troops and officers also trained for a possible need to cordon off the illegal outpost to secure the evacuation, which is expected to take place before or on December 25, a deadline set by the High Court in a ruling determining it was built on privately owned Palestinian land.
Residents of the West Bank outpost of Amona indicated they would not accede to a government plan to move them to a nearby plot and derided the Jewish Home party for joining other coalition members in backing a bill that won’t keep bulldozers from razing their homes. The Knesset pushed forward on a controversial bill on Monday that will allow the government to recognize outposts built on private Palestinian land, after the Jewish Home dropped its demand that the legislation include a clause retroactively overriding a High Court ruling for Amona to be evacuated by December 25.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that they are working very hard to find a solution for Amona and that they intend to examine the possibility of the residents being able to remain on the mountain, and even to stay as a community. Maybe there is the possibility that the residents of Amona will have to move a few dozen meters, maybe even 100-180 meters, but they will be able to remain in the same location. Netanyahu called on Coalition members to act with restraint on the subject.
After a marathon session, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee approved the Regulation Law on Wednesday morning, paving the way for the second and third readings in the Knesset next week. The Regulation Law, crafted in response to demolition orders issued by the Supreme Court against the town of Amona in Samaria, would protect communities over the Green Line from ex post facto claims of ownership on their land by absentee landlords. If passed, the Regulation Law would allow verified owners claiming property rights to be compensated at 125% of the value of the real estate prior to the improvements created by the towns in question.
A-G Avichai Mandelblit’s proposed solution for Amona was dismissed on Monday night by residents of the town, which is slated for eviction by December 25, as well as by lawmakers from the Jewish Home party. Mandelblit suggested moving the residents of Amona to temporary structures on three plots located north of the community. The solution is a temporary one, for a period of about eight months, and will move the residents to property defined as “absentee property”, meaning assets granted to the state of Israel which originally belonged to individuals who fled to the territory of a hostile nation during the 1948 War of Independence.
On Monday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he was not expecting that the court-ordered evacuation of the Amona outpost by the end of the year would see violence on the part of the settlers living there. Erdan later acknowledged that the legislation alone may not avert the demolition, but said in such a case he has “no doubt” the police will do their job and the government will comply with the court order. The Minister said he is familiar with the Amona residents and “the majority or all are law-abiding and will not lift a hand against a policeman.”
Sources close to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked indicated that the Ministry is working on adapting the Cyprus model to Israel in order to resolve the issues of Palestinian land ownership claims throughout Judea and Samaria, including Amona. The invitation of a renowned international jurist to participate in the formulation of the plan is expected to help deal with the expected response from Europe to the plan. According to the plan, an arbitration committee will be appointed to decide on issues of land belonging to private owners and whether and how much compensation to give in these cases.
Palestinian landowners filed an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday rejecting demands to postpone the evacuation of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona, according to a statement by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. The appeal was filed by Israeli lawyers Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharaa, and called on the court not to respond to the demands of the Israeli State Attorney’s office, which requested the postponement on the basis that it could not arrange alternative housing for the residents of Amona before the target date of December this year.