Netanyahu seeks deal to save settlement homes in Amona

Netanyahu: We are working overtime to find solution.

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December 4, 2016 23:40
4 minute read.
JPost Diplomatic Conference 2016

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The coalition disputes over the settlement bill and the future of the Amona outpost could be coming to a close, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued negotiations with party leaders and brought options to Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit that might lead to the postponement of Monday’s planned vote.

At the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the government was “working overtime” to come up with a “responsible solution” to the issues.

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“I expect everyone, including ministers and Knesset members, to respect [a solution when found],” he said.

“We need to act responsibly and wisely for the sake of our joint goal of protecting the settlements and also the court. We are working on both those planes.”

Netanyahu continued to work with the chairman of Bayit Yehudi, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, on Saturday night and throughout Sunday in hopes of reaching an agreement by Monday.

There has been no specific package deal on the table for Bennett to support or oppose, but the prime minister brought a series of measures to Mandelblit for his legal appraisal. The attorney-general had yet to respond when The Jerusalem Post went to press.

The settlement bill, which would legalize nearly 4,000 settlement homes built with some form of state cooperation on what is considered private Palestinian land by allowing the government to compensate landowners rather than raze the homes, is up for a first reading on Monday’s Knesset agenda.

Ministers are under strict orders not to leave the country so the coalition will have a majority in a vote, but there is a strong possibility that the vote will be postponed until Wednesday. It’s also possiblethe bill will not go to a vote at all, in favor of a non-legislative method of legalizing the homes.

Should the bill go to a vote, Kulanu will not support it as long as it includes the “Amona article,” which states that the legislation would be used to overturn longstanding High Court of Justice rulings, thus postponing the outpost’s demolition, slated for December 25.

Kulanu opposes the article on the grounds that it harms the judiciary. Its votes are necessary for the coalition to have a majority because MK Bennie Begin (Likud) has vowed to vote against the bill, calling it “theft,” something that could throw the balance to the opposition.

Thus, the coalition cannot keep the “Amona article” in the bill, and a separate solution might have to be found for the outpost.

Netanyahu is considering monetary compensation for Amona residents in addition to moving them to a new site.

The solutions he is examining include asking the High Court for a 30-day postponement of the outpost’s demolition. Last month, the court rejected a similar request, but the coalition hopes that since the new appeal is limited, the response this time will be different.

One option being considered for Amona’s 40 families is moving them to a smaller plot of land on the same hill, although this might only be a temporary solution because that area is not state land, either. In the eight months the residents would live there, the government would seek a permanent solution the residents could support.

The other option, which is more permanent, is moving them to Shvut Rachel, a neighborhood in Shiloh.

Neither option is a new idea.

Both have been floated in the past and rejected by Amona residents, who thus far have said they will only agree to staying put.

Bayit Yehudi has yet to approve or reject the package, and party leaders face significant pressure from Amona residents and their supporters among religious Zionists, including central committee members and prominent rabbis.

Some organized a protest in front of Bennett’s home in Ra’anana on Sunday night.

A group calling itself the Campaign to Save Amona has sworn that it will not accept compromises.

“The destruction of Amona will not pass quietly. Those responsible will not be absolved. Thousands will be here to protect the homes with their bodies and to protest the ineffectiveness of the politicians,” the group said.

The issue was not just the Amona homes, according to the campaign. Those who were giving up on Amona were also giving up on other homes under High Court-ordered demolitions, such as nine homes in the Ofra settlements and 15 in the Derech Ha’avot outpost.

It warned against giving in to the dictates of the extreme Left, noting that the “public was not stupid” and would not allow the demolition of a flourishing community with 200 children.

“True leadership is tested in the moment of truth. For hundreds of thousands of those faithful to the Land of Israel, Amona is both a test and a symbol of the struggle,” it said.

Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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