The High Court of Justice on Monday insisted that the West Bank Amona outpost must be razed by December 25, as it rejected a bid by the state to delay the evacuation by seven months.
The decision means that the only potential reprieve the Amona families have is legislation to retroactively legalize some 2,000 homes in settlements and outposts.
To date, the bill lacks the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and needs Knesset approval before it can become law.
In their ruling, the three Supreme Court judges said they feared that the state’s request for a delay would be followed by another one in July.
MK Hotovely on legality of settlement resolution and regarding Amona
The state has said it needed the time so that it could explore resettlement options for the community, such as building a new neighborhood in the Shiloh settlement. Another option is using the abandoned property law, so that it could relocate the families to plots of land nearby their existing homes, outside of the Ofra settlement.
The judges said both options needed more time than the seven months allotted.
They conceded that relocating an outpost was difficult, and it was for this reason they had given the state two years to resolve the matter, when they issued their final judgment in December 2014. That judgment, they noted, followed earlier declarations by the state that it would evacuate the outpost in 2012.
When the court mandated that the Migron outpost must be demolished, the state had asked for three and a half years, but the court gave Migron only eight months, so the time allowed for Amona was significantly greater the judges said.
The court also dismissed the state’s claim that the time was needed to avoid a violent evacuation. The state said it hoped to use the seven months to sway the Amona families to peacefully relocate.
Amona was built in 1995 without permits or approvals, though it did receive a NIS 2.1 million grant from the ministry.
In letters to the court, many of the Amona residents said they had no intention of relocating, indicating to the court that they should not interpret the state’s request for a delay as some form of an agreement on their part that they would move.
The families told the court what they had said to the government: that their community was built with tacit nods of approval from the Housing and Construction Ministry. As such, they said, the government had a responsibility to legalize it.
The non-governmental organization Yesh Din, which had petitioned the court on behalf of the Palestinian landowners welcomed the HCJ’s decision.
“The judges clarified, like they have in the past, that the state is trying to find last minute excuses to avoid executing the court’s decision,” Yesh Din said.
“Executing the court judgment is not a choice,” Yesh Din said.
Residents of the Amona outpost held an emergency meeting on Monday night and promised to resist any evacuation attempts.
“We’ll stand here like a bulwark,” Amona spokesman Avihai Boaron promised at an emergency meeting the community’s 40 families held on Monday night, just hours after receiving the final word from the court.
In the days to come, he said, a tent city would be put up for those who want to help the community resist the court decree.
He appealed to Netanyahu to support a legislative solution, explaining that there 40 families in the outpost, including 200 children and teens.
“It’s up to you [Netanyahu] to save us or to sacrifice us,” he said.
“Pass the bill and remove the sword of evacuation and transfer from over our heads,” Boaron said.
He referenced the forced demotion that took place there in February 2006, when security forces carried out an HCJ ruling to demolish nine permanent homes in the outpost.
“We won’t let Amona fall again,” he said.
MK Shuli Moalem Refali (Bayit Yehudi) who had sponsored the leg-islation to authorize settler homes, said the court’s decision was proof as to why the process of selecting judges needed to change.
“This is a political issue and not a legal issue,” she said as she charged that the court was abetting anti-Israeli group who want to deny Jewish claims to the land.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said the decision fell in line with “cold-hearted and cruel” decisions the court had taken in the past.
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) called on the government to end “the fiasco” that was Amona and to abide by the court dictates that it be razed.
“It’s a test of our faith in the rule of law in Israel,” he said.