The West Bank Amona outpost received a last minute reprieve Friday, when the
High Court of Justice ruled that the bulk of the 40 hilltop homes could remain
where they are until the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court adjudicates conflicting
property claims between settlers and Palestinians.
A 40-meter section of
the access road to the outpost will be torn down, but settlers are already
building an alternative stretch.
The HCJ had previously ruled that the
outpost must be evacuated by July 15
, because it was built without permits on
private Palestinian property.
Settlers claim to have since purchased some
of the property on which the homes are built through a company called
Amona residents had asked the court to leave the outpost intact
until all the land issues are settled.
The Israeli non-governmental
organization Yesh Din, that petitioned the HCJ on behalf of the Palestinian
landowners in 2008, has asked the court to stick to the July 15 deadline, so the
land could be returned to their clients. But the HCJ’s ruling fell in line with
the state’s recommendation.
It issued a new date of July 24 for the
removal the 40-meter stretch of road, and any homes without purchase
According to settlers, only one home needs to come down. The
court ruling itself is vague and does not clarify how many buildings must come
down on July 24.
Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said that he had never
been given enough information about the purchased lots to discern the number of
homes the state plans to demolish in Amona by July 24.
Sfard said he was
disappointed by Friday's HCJ verdict to delay the evacuation.
to evacuate Amona and restore possession over the land to the owners began more
than a decade ago,” Sfard said.
“Part of Amona will be evacuated this
month and Yesh Din will continue to give assistance to the owners until they get
their land back,” Sfard said.
He told The Jerusalem Post that his clients
knew nothing of any settler land purchases on the hilltop and rejected all
claims that someone had bought their property.
The state, he said, has
consistently recognized the rights of the Palestinian property owners.
a written argument to the court submitted on Thursday, Sfard explained that the
question of settler purchase claims were moot. Even if the Jerusalem
Magistrate’s Court was to authenticate the land purchases, there is not enough
settler owned land on the hilltop to create a viable community, he
Built in 1995, Amona is one of the oldest outposts. It is located
on a hilltop on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin
It is best known for violent clashes between security forces and
right-wing activists that occurred there in 2006, when the IDF and Border Police
demolished nine permanent homes that had just been built on land classified by
the state as belonging to private Palestinians.
At present some 40
families live in Amona with 170 children. The outpost also has an elementary
school that goes through fourth grade and three kindergartens. It has a
synagogue, a community center, a playground, a basketball court and a number of
businesses including a boutique winery.
According to the 2005
government-sponsored report on West Bank outposts by private attorney Talia
Sasson, the outpost was built on private Palestinian property without the
Still, she said, the Housing and Construction Ministry
spent NIS 2.16 million on infrastructure for Amona.
In a written argument
the Amona residents submitted to the court on Tuesday, they provided a document,
which showed that the Housing and Construction Ministry spent NIS 300,000 on the
same road the Civil Administration now plans to destroy.
have long claimed they purchased much of the land on which the outpost is built;
even before they bought some of the land in the last few months.
in their written argument to the court, they noted that the land status was
actually unclear at the time the outpost was created.
provided the HCJ a document from the Binyamin Regional Planning Council, which
stated that the property owner was the Custodian of Abandoned Properties. In
addition, it also provided the HCJ initial plans drawn up in the 1990s for
Amona, as a neighborhood of the Ofra settlement.
In its written argument,
Amona residents said they were not “trespassers or law-breakers” and that there
was no justification to evacuate them.
They told the court that in zoning
documents the Palestinians are registered as “users” of the land and not its
The claimants, therefore, do not have the right to request that
the land be evacuated, because they do not have the standing of owners, Amona
settlers wrote to the court.
Upon hearing of Friday’s HCJ decision to
delay the evacuation, Amona spokesman Avichai Baron said he was pleased by the
decision, which he felt justified their position that the land was
“We are hopeful that the court will validate the claim and the
outpost will eventually be authorized,” he said.