Israel’s High Court freezes Amona deal

Residents of the Amona outpost plan to hold an emergency meeting on the matter on Tuesday night.

January 23, 2017 16:20
3 minute read.

Amona outpost in 2015. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

The High Court of Justice on Monday froze the relocation deal for residents of the West Bank settlement outpost of Amona, just two weeks before the February 8 evacuation date it had set for the 40 families that live in the hilltop community.

It issued a temporary injunction in response to a petition against the deal filed by Palestinians who claim ownership of the land slated for relocation of Amona families who had agreed with the government to peacefully leave their homes.

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The Palestinian petition comes on the heels of a declaration by the 40 Amona families that they already consider the deal null and void, because they say the state has not lived up to its end of the agreement. Residents plan to hold an emergency meeting on the matter on Tuesday night.

The Amona families have issued a call to right-wing lawmakers warning of fierce resistance to the evacuation unless the Knesset passes a settlement bill that would retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property.

They added that they expect their outpost to be included in the bill. The current version, now in committee in preparation for passage, excludes their homes.

Both the Amona families and the state had promised the High Court to abide by the February 8 date.

Right-wing lawmakers had assumed that they could move forward with the bill after US President Donald Trump entered office, but on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged them not to take any dramatic moves immediately.

The state has promised the court that it would not ask for another extension. If the court voids the deal, it is unclear whether that pledge still holds.

The court had initially ruled in 2014 that the outpost must be removed, because it was built without permits on private Palestinian property. The justices had noted that there is not enough state property on the hilltop to allow for the creation of a permanent settlement at that location.

In the Amona deal reached in December, the state told the families the IDF would change the law of abandoned property in the West Bank, so that it could attempt to relocate their modular homes to different plots of land on the same hilltop, just outside the Ofra settlement.

To do this the state dissolved the partnership agreements by which the lots were jointly owned. The state did this so it could use portions of the lots for which there is no ownership claim.

On Monday, the head of the Silwad Village Council and the Palestinian landowners submitted a petition to the High Court claiming that the dissolution of the land partnerships was illegal.

It made this claim with the help of the Israeli NGO Yesh Din, whose attorneys have represented the Palestinian landowners in court.

In their petition, attorneys Shlomy Zachary, Muhammad Shuqier and Michal Ziv said that the re-parceling of the plots is an attempt by the state to keep the landowners from using their property.

The state, they argued, did not have the power to change the terms of agreements for private property, a move that could only be done by the landowners themselves.

But even if the move could happen, the attorneys argued, placing the Amona homes on the lots would prevent the landowners from accessing their land, which would then be off limits because it was too close to the Amona community.

The Anona threat has resonance because of the fierce clashes that occurred there between settlers and security forces in 2006, when the High Court of Justice had mandated that nine new permanent homes in the outpost must be destroyed.

The outpost is located on a hilltop just outside of the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. Separately, the High Court of Justice has also mandated that nine homes in Ofra built on private Palestinian property must be demolished by February 8th.

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