THE AMONA OUTPOST is seen in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Attorney-General’s Office announced it will not defend the government’s policy toward Amona, which is slated for demolition, if a bill legalizing the outpost moves forward. In response, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation postponed by a week the vote scheduled for Sunday.
Deputy Attorney-General Avi Licht told the ministers that the bill in question is indefensible before the High Court of Justice, and if the ministers approve it, then he will be unable to ask the court to postpone Amona’s dismantling from its scheduled December 25 date.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin called Licht’s announcement “extortion.”
The bill, proposed by Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, would save the illegal settler outpost Amona – which has been ordered to be demolished by the High Court of Justice – by finding a legal arrangement for homes built on West Bank on land owned by Palestinians.
Amona was built in 1995 with NIS 2.16 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry. The nongovernmental organization Yesh Din petitioned the court to evacuate the outpost, arguing that it was built without permits either from the government or the Defense Ministry, and on private land that belonged to Palestinians.
The proposed bill would have the state pay “generous” compensation to the landowners in land and money while legalizing the existing homes.
Moalem-Refaeli said the bill would be the equivalent of the state asserting eminent domain, which it has done in other circumstances.
Ministers from Bayit Yehudi, the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu were expected to vote in favor of the bill at the beginning of the meeting, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called in Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is the Ministerial Committee’s chairwoman, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett to an urgent meeting following Licht’s announcement.
Netanyahu asked for a postponement, and Shaked and Bennett resisted at first. But after other factions supported the prime minister’s request, the Bayit Yehudi minister acquiesced.
Following the meeting, Ariel said he took issue with Licht’s comments, because they are “unjust and go against the prime minister’s message from two-and-a-half months ago.”
Despite this, Ariel vowed that the government will continue to push the outpost bill, and said that if the Attorney-General’s Office won’t ask the High Court to postpone Amona’s demolition, the government would hire a private attorney to do so.
“We won’t give up on this just and righteous battle,” he said.
Similarly, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin criticized the office’s announcement, saying, “We’re a country that has a court, not a court that has a country. In this matter, like many others, there is no problem to find a legal solution.”
The Campaign to Save Amona warned ministers that they would “pay with their seats” if their hilltop community were not legalized in the coming Knesset session.
“The time has come for those who lead the national camp to take responsibility for the communities in Judea and Samaria, and it must be carried out with actions, not with words. The people of Judea and Samaria are done with talking, with disappointments and with betrayals,” the campaign said.
It later sent out a second note in which it said that it would not agree to the state’s plans to ask the High Court to delay the evacuation to prepare a replacement community for them in the Shiloh settlement.
It added that such a request harms the possibility of securing Knesset approval for a bill to retroactively legalize 2,000 unauthorized homes throughout Judea and Samaria, including Amona. Residents want the High Court to know that the plan does not have their approval, nor do they have any intention of going along with it.