Amona battle goes down to the wire

Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned Netanyahu that if the ministers do not support the bill next Sunday, his party will bring it to a vote in the Knesset anyway.

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November 7, 2016 00:32
2 minute read.
MERETZ MKS visiting Amona on Sunday.

MERETZ MKS visiting Amona on Sunday.. (photo credit: PEACE NOW)

For the second week in a row, the Ministerial Legislative Committee has delayed a vote by one week on the controversial Amona bill, as ministers are waiting until the last possible moment to push forward legislation to retroactively legalize many of the unauthorized settlers’ homes in the West Bank, including the Amona outpost.

The ministers did so at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it is the last time they push off the issue in this Knesset session – the Bayit Yehudi party has calculated that next week is the latest possible date to start legislative work to secure passage of a bill, before Amona’s scheduled December 25 demolition date.

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Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned Netanyahu that if the ministers do not support the bill next Sunday, his party will bring it to a vote in the Knesset anyway.

The initial version had looked at legalizing all the unauthorized settler homes, which is estimated at over 2,000 units. Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit has said that the bill is unconstitutional.

A special vote of the Knesset’s presidium last week waived a waiting period for Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Muallem-Refaeli to pull that version of the legislation and replace it with the new text.

She and other signatories, including coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud), have said that the new version is softer.

The MKs are hopeful that Mandelblit will not oppose the new version, which calls on the government to authorize those outposts built with either initial nods of approval from government miniseries, or unauthorized homes in already approved settlements, such as the Amona outpost.

The original bill had the state pay “generous” compensation to the landowners in land and money while legalizing the existing homes, which Moalem-Refaeli has said is the equivalent of the state asserting eminent domain, as it has done in other circumstances.

The new draft still offers compensation, but also allows the land’s owners to go to court if they are unsatisfied with the financial offer from the state.

The state asked the High Court of Justice last week for a seven-month delay to prepare relocation options, which it hoped would sway the 40 Amona families to willingly leave their homes.

The parties to the case submitted their opinion on the issue of delay to the High Court on Sunday. The Amona families said that they had no intention to relocate to Shiloh. “We will protest and we will resist such an evacuation,” they said, “a delay won’t change that.”


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