The IDF is prepared for a possible physical confrontation with residents when the controversial Amona outpost is evacuated next week, after residents rejected a proposal to resettle at another site in cooperation with the government, military sources said on Thursday.
While the IDF had initially hoped for a surprise evacuation before the December 25 deadline to evacuate the 40 families of Amona, the time it took for the deal to be offered and rejected, in addition to the upcoming Hanukka holiday, has taken away the element of surprise.
The IDF does not want the evacuation to take place when teenagers are off from school and would go to the outpost to join the residents’ protest. Hundreds already showed up on Thursday when rumors spread of an impending evacuation.
“I hear voices calling for violent opposition,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at a Limmud FSU conference in Eilat. “There will be no understanding or tolerance for violence against security forces in the evacuation. But there will have to be empathy for those losing their homes.”
Liberman, who lives in the Nokdim settlement in Judea, appealed to Amona residents, saying that as a settler, he does not want to see the settler movement harmed by the images of a violent evacuation.
Amona leaders promised that they would leave with dignity and that there would not be violence from residents. But they admitted they could not control every teenager who comes to the outpost to support them.
The head of the campaign to save Amona, Avichai Boaron, said that if he wanted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could still save every home in Amona. He expressed the hope that Amona residents would still receive a better offer.
But government officials said there would not be another offer and that the one they had received was “the best there could be.”
“We gave them the maximum, but the High Court of Justice cannot be bypassed,” Interior Minister Arye Deri said, appealing to Amona residents. “Friends, please don’t make this any harder.”
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich said he was both saddened and inspired by the Amona residents’ rejection of the deal.
“As public servants, our obligation was to try and reach the best possible framework and bring it before the residents, and that is what we did,” Smotrich said. “I thought the residents should have accepted the deal, but I respect their decision and I am impressed by their determination.”
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern said it pained him that the residents “decided to cause an unnecessary conflict with the security forces.”
Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, the 40 Amona families rejected a last-minute compromise relocation plan which the state had offered them in hopes of avoiding a violent evacuation.
The offer, proposed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and approved by Netanyahu, was to relocate the homes to abandoned Palestinian property on the same hilltop where the West Bank outpost of Amona is located.
Families living in Amona said they had been prepared to accept a serious offer by the state that involved rebuilding all their homes on the same hilltop and a promise not to destroy the current structures until the new ones had been completed.
Instead, the state’s offer was so full of holes it was like “Swiss cheese” and provided a solution for only a quarter of the families, the Amona residents said, adding that the state was not able to promise that permanent homes could be built on the hilltop.
“We have learned from experience not to believe promises which are not backed by commitments,” the families wrote in a statement released to the media. “Therefore, we will continue being true to our original goal... After 10 hours of deliberation, we have decided by a clear majority to reject the offer given to us.
“We, the residents of Amona, came here as young couples many years ago,” the statement read. “It was in Amona that we built our homes, our lives and raised our children.”
“All our memories were formed in Amona,” they wrote. “During the last year, we have fought our battle with one goal – keeping our homes.”
The Amona residents admitted that their battle had yielded a number of positive results for the communities in Judea and Samaria, primarily the settlement regulation bill, which has passed its first reading in the Knesset and is now under preparation for its second and final third reading.
The bill retroactively legalizes 4,000 homes built on private Palestinian property, while offering the Palestinian landowners compensation.
At the request of the Kulanu Party, the Amona homes were removed from the bill, because the High Court had ruled in 2014 that the outpost must be demolished by December 25, 2016, due to the fact that it was built without permits on private Palestinian property.
From the start, the Amona families argued that the outpost was also built with an initial nod of approval from government officials, including the Construction Ministry, which had provided a NIS 2.1 million grant. They insisted that the state had an obligation to authorize their homes and all other such structures.
Ariel Whitman contributed to this report.