‘THERE WILL be war over Amona,’ the graffiti reads at the outpost in the Binyamin region of Samaria in the West Bank.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The state is expected, possibly as early as Sunday, to ask the High Court of Justice to postpone the demolishing of the West Bank Amona outpost by one month.
The High Court had previously ordered the outpost’s demolition by December 25, and it has rejected previous requests by the state to postpone it. The one-month delay would move the demolition date to January 25, five days after US President-elect Trump takes office.
The state will likely argue that time is needed to find a relocation site for the 40 families who live in the outpost, given that past proposals have fallen through or will not be ready in time. The latest plan could involve relocating the families to the nearby Ofra settlement.
The Amona families have resisted all relocation plans and have insisted that the Knesset pass a law that recognizes their homes as legal. The High Court has ruled they were built without permits on privately owned Palestinian property.
The Knesset on Wednesday passed the first reading of the settlement regulation bill, which if it becomes law would retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property, and would offer compensation to the landowners.
Amona resident on importance of settlements 'we're not occupying'
But at the request of the Kulanu Party, the legislation excludes outposts which have outstanding court demolition orders, such as Amona.
Right-wing lawmakers who support the bill hope its swift passage, and the victory this would represent for the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, will sway the Amona families to voluntarily leave their homes.
They had hoped to bring the bill to a third and final reading by this Wednesday, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled trip to Azerbaijan that day is likely to throw a monkey wrench in those efforts.
Netanyahu would prefer to see the legislation come to a final vote only after US President Barack Obama has left office.
He fears that otherwise its passage could persuade Obama to support a UN Security Council resolution against West Bank settlements.
A delegation of senior Palestinian Authority representatives is scheduled to meet with State Department officials in Washington on Monday to raise the issue.
On Thursday, State Department press office director Elizabeth Trudeau said her government is “deeply concerned” by the bill.
“We view this as... paving [the way] for the unprecedented legalization of these outposts deep in the West Bank.
Thousands of settlement housing units – these are illegal under Israeli law. We believe this would be profoundly damaging to prospects for a two-state solution,” Trudeau said.
The United Kingdom, which is also a permanent member of the Security Council, also spoke out against the legislation.
Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said that the legislation “would be illegal under international law, and once again calls into question the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution.”
In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Thursday urged Israeli legislators to vote against the measure. “I strongly urge lawmakers to reconsider their support for this bill, which if enacted, would have far-reaching consequences and would seriously damage the reputation of Israel around the world,” the Jordanian diplomat said.
This would be the first time that the Knesset enacts a law with territorial implications for the West Bank, beyond east Jerusalem, Zeid said. He is particularly concerned, he added, by statements from Israeli politicians that the bill is the first step toward annexation of Area C of the West Bank.
“This openly stated ambition should alarm all those interested in seeing respect for international law, and all those who wish for a lasting peace for all the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine,” he said.
Under the Oslo Accords, Area C is under Israel civilian and security control.
At the Amona outpost, activists are making preparations to resist the attempt by the state to destroy the homes. On Thursday, an emergency message was sent out warning of a possible evacuation as early as Saturday night.
But by late Friday afternoon another message was circulated explaining that security forces planned to wait until after the High Court had responded to the state’s latest appeal for a delay.
Simultaneously, the Amona families are working to sway lawmakers to place the outpost back in the settlement regulation bill before it returns to the Knesset for its second and third readings.