Palestinian laborers work at a construction site in a settlement near Jerusalem .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Residents of the Amona outpost in the West Bank plan to reject any relocation plan and have demanded instead that the government legalize their small hilltop community, which is slated for demolition at the end of the year.
“The government brought us here, and if they made a mistake we should not have to pay for it by losing our homes,” Amona spokesman Avichay Buaron said on Sunday.
He was responding to an article in Haaretz that said the Defense Ministry and settler leaders were working on a plan to build a new legal community in the Shiloh area.
Buaron said that the Defense Ministry had not made any such offer to the 40 families that live in the Amona outpost and that they had heard of the project in the media, just like everyone else.
Amona, first built in 1995 with NIS 2.16 million from the Housing and Construction Ministry, is one of the oldest West Bank outposts, located just outside the Ofra settlement. It is under the auspices of the Binyamin Regional Council.
One of the most violent clashes between settlers and security forces took place at Amona in 2007 when the IDF demolished nine unauthorized new stone homes; they were the first such structures in a community that had lived in caravans since its inception.
In 2008, the nongovernmental group Yesh Din petitioned the High Court of Justice against the outpost on behalf of 10 Palestinians from the nearby village of Silwad who claimed ownership of the property.
An initial HCJ ruling that the outpost must be razed by the end of 2012 led to a series of appeals and, in 2014 the court reissued its ruling in which it said the homes had been built on private Palestinian property and it was not possible to legalize them retroactively.
Amona residents have long claimed that they purchased the property and that the government initially had intended to build a new neighborhood of Ofra on their hilltop.
In recent years, they said they had repurchased a number of the plots, but the High Court has never upheld their ownership claims. In its 2014 ruling, the judges said that even if a separate land court were to authenticate the purchases, it would still not be possible to legalize the outpost.
With a pending evacuation just seven months away, Binyamin Region spokeswoman Tamar Asraf said a twopronged approach was needed.
“The council supports the battle of the Amona families to stay in their homes,” she said, but it also has a responsibility to provide for them, should the IDF be forced to carry out the court’s decision.
The council has been in discussions regarding alternative housing sites with both with the Defense Ministry and Amana, the construction arm of the settlement movement, including the possibility of relocating the families to an area near Shiloh, Asraf said.
“If there is an evacuation, we have to be prepared for the day after,” she said.
Buaron, however, said that if the government wanted to it could find a solution to legalize the homes that would be acceptable to the court.
Buaron, who moved to Amona 19 years ago, said he did so with the understanding that it would and could be legalized.
“They gave us water and electricity,” he said. “They worked on the place so that it would be a neighborhood. The problem is a legal one, not a diplomatic one, so a legal solution is needed.”