Steinitz: ‘Even Palestinians won’t benefit from the needless tragedy of evacuating Amona'

The High Court of Justice in 2014 ruled that the outpost must be razed by the end of December because it was built on private Palestinian property without the proper permits.

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June 28, 2016 15:44
Steinitz

Yuval Steinitz speaking at the Amona outpost. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

 
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The evacuation of the Amona outpost would be a “needless tragedy” that would be detrimental to the Jews and would not benefit the Palestinians, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Tuesday.

“We can’t get to an absurd situation in which an entire community is destroyed because of a land dispute,” Steinitz said as he visited the small hilltop community of some 40 families, overlooking the West Bank’s Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region. “Even the Palestinians won’t benefit from it.”

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The High Court of Justice in 2014 ruled the outpost must be razed by the end of December because it was built on private Palestinian property without the proper permits. It did so in response to a petition by the NGO Yesh Din on behalf of 10 residents of the nearby Silwad village.

But the Amona residents, who first built the outpost in 1995 with the help of NIS 2.16 million from the Construction Ministry, have embarked on a pitched battle to remain in their homes. They have argued that they built their modular homes with initial governmental approvals that were never finalized.

Steinitz pledged to help them in their efforts as he stood on a small wooden outlook, from which one can see the adjacent settlement of Ofra and the surrounding Palestinian villages.

The best step forward would be to compensate the Palestinian landowners rather to destroy these homes, Steinitz said.

He imagined a scenario in which it was discovered that a neighborhood or a group of apartments built on state land in Tel Aviv or Kfar Saba had actually been constructed on the private property of an Israeli landowner.



If that landowner preferred the demolition of the buildings over compensation, no one would agree to such senseless destruction, Steinitz said.

“The state [in that instance] would go to the natural path of compensation because that is what the logic dictates,” he said. “The same logic that applies in Kfar Saba applies in Amona.”

He added that he learned a lesson from the famous February 2006 event at the outpost, when the IDF demolished nine permanent homes that also stood on private Palestinian property.

He recalled that he had been a member of the investigatory committee that looked into the violent clashes that occurred there between rightwing activists and the IDF.

The razing of those nine homes was a mistake that occurred purely because of a High Court ruling, he said.

“It was a senseless action that didn’t do anything for anyone. It harmed the Jews and it did not help the Palestinians,” he said.

Steinitz added that he did view it as problematic to pursue a solution that went against a court ruling.

“I respect the High Court, but I don’t always agree with it,” Steinitz said. “Sometimes it comes to absurd conclusions and the absurdity here screams out as high as the heavens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given a nod in the direction of the Amona families and has indicated behind the scenes that he supports their search for a solution that would allow them to remain in their homes.

Still, his policy has been to remove and/or relocate Israeli structures built on private Palestinian property.

The two famous demolitions and relocations that have occurred on Netanyahu’s watch were the 2012 Migron outpost and 30 homes in the Ulpana outpost 2013.

In both cases, the land was not returned to the Palestinian owners. Neither Israelis or Palestinians can use those tracts of land.The evacuation of the Amona outpost would be a “needless tragedy” that would be detrimental to the Jews and would not benefit the Palestinians, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Tuesday.

“We can’t get to an absurd situation in which an entire community is destroyed because of a land dispute,” Steinitz said as he visited the small hilltop community of some 40 families, overlooking the West Bank’s Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region. “Even the Palestinians won’t benefit from it.”

The High Court of Justice in 2014 ruled the outpost must be razed by the end of December because it was built on private Palestinian property without the proper permits. It did so in response to a petition by the NGO Yesh Din on behalf of 10 residents of the nearby Silwad village.

But the Amona residents, who first built the outpost in 1995 with the help of NIS 2.16 million from the Construction Ministry, have embarked on a pitched battle to remain in their homes. They have argued that they built their modular homes with initial governmental approvals that were never finalized.

Steinitz pledged to help them in their efforts as he stood on a small wooden outlook, from which one can see the adjacent settlement of Ofra and the surrounding Palestinian villages.

The best step forward would be to compensate the Palestinian landowners rather to destroy these homes, Steinitz said.

He imagined a scenario in which it was discovered that a neighborhood or a group of apartments built on state land in Tel Aviv or Kfar Saba had actually been constructed on the private property of an Israeli landowner.

If that landowner preferred the demolition of the buildings over compensation, no one would agree to such senseless destruction, Steinitz said.

“The state [in that instance] would go to the natural path of compensation because that is what the logic dictates,” he said. “The same logic that applies in Kfar Saba applies in Amona.”

He added that he learned a lesson from the famous February 2006 event at the outpost, when the IDF demolished nine permanent homes that also stood on private Palestinian property.

He recalled that he had been a member of the investigatory committee that looked into the violent clashes that occurred there between rightwing activists and the IDF.

The razing of those nine homes was a mistake that occurred purely because of a High Court ruling, he said.

“It was a senseless action that didn’t do anything for anyone. It harmed the Jews and it did not help the Palestinians,” he said.

Steinitz added that he did view it as problematic to pursue a solution that went against a court ruling.

“I respect the High Court, but I don’t always agree with it,” Steinitz said. “Sometimes it comes to absurd conclusions and the absurdity here screams out as high as the heavens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given a nod in the direction of the Amona families and has indicated behind the scenes that he supports their search for a solution that would allow them to remain in their homes.

Still, his policy has been to remove and/or relocate Israeli structures built on private Palestinian property.

The two famous demolitions and relocations that have occurred on Netanyahu’s watch were the 2012 Migron outpost and 30 homes in the Ulpana outpost 2013.

In both cases, the land was not returned to the Palestinian owners. Neither Israelis or Palestinians can use those tracts of land.

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