The newly established settlement of Amichai in the West Bank. (Courtesy).
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The first homes in the newly created Amihai settlement were installed on an empty hilltop in the Binyamin region of the West Bank on Wednesday.
The small, white structures were trucked into the site by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, and placed onto plots with cranes.
By Friday, 36 modular dwellings will be ready for families from the Amona outpost who have waited over a year for to replace their homes that security forces destroyed last February.
Many of the families have spent that year living in the Ofra field school dormitory.
“After a long battle, we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said activist Avichai Boaron, an Amona evacuee who led the campaign to save the original community that had been located on a hilltop on the edge of the Ofra settlement.
He added that he saw the placement of the homes as an important step in the battle to annex Area C of the West Bank.
Area C, created in the 1995 Oslo II Accord, constitutes about 61% of the West Bank, and includes all the Israeli settlements.
“It’s a very short road from here to [the application of] sovereignty in Judea and Samaria,” Boaron said.
As a result of the Amona struggle, the Knesset passed legislation in 2015 to authorize illegally built homes in West Bank settlements and outposts, which like Amona, had been built on private Palestinian property.
The legislation also provides compensation for the Palestinian land owners. The High Court of Justice is adjudicating the legality of that law.
The Amona outpost was illegally built on private Palestinian property, with NIS 2.1 million from the Construction Ministry.
It was excluded from the legalization because the High Court had already ruled that it must be razed.
To compensate the Amona families, the government authorized the first new settlement in more than 20 years, in the area of the Shiloh settlement, which is located some 27 kilometers over the pre- 1967 lines.
Boaron said that the “more than anything else, the establishment of new settlement after so many years of drought, is a significant achievement for the Amona [Israeli] discourse and consciousness [on the issue].”
He added, “Judea and Samaria is no longer in Israel’s backyard, but rather an indispensable part of the country. Its residents are not people without a home, but citizens with equal rights.”
The homes in Amihai are an expression of this new reality, said Boaron.
“Israel is now establishing a new settlement in the full light of day, and not as a thief in the night,” said Boaron.
The left-wing NGO Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights, which had petitioned the High Court for Amona’s demolition, said that the placement of the homes in Amihai was a sign of the government’s desire to continue to occupy the West Bank.
“The state has established a new settlement in violation of international law,” the NGO said.
It has done so “to compensate a group of people who were evicted from land that they stole after they spent years ridiculing the rule of law and the property rights of the Palestinians,” Yesh Din said.