THE AMONA OUTPOST is seen in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Residents of Amona have every reason to feel frustrated.
They were sent to their hilltop by successive governments and encouraged to build the homes where they raised their families.
Now their fate has been tossed around like a political hot potato among the courts, various government ministries, and even the government of the United States.
Thursday’s decision to seek another six months to find a solution for Amona must be viewed within the context of the unprecedented condemnation by the Obama administration last week of a creative solution to the problem.
Amona was built on private Palestinian land, so the thought was to move the residents to an unbuilt area of the Shiloh settlement. But the Americans would hear nothing of it, mistakenly seeing the creation of a new settlement in what was actually a plan to remove an illegal outpost by expanding a legal settlement.
“We strongly condemn the Israeli government’s recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
The result of the condemnation by Toner publicly and by his boss, US Secretary of State John Kerry, privately, is that an illegal outpost will remain in place, at least for now. Not for the first time, the Americans played into the hands of the settlers, who in Amona’s case opposed any outcome but keeping their homes.
With creative solutions ruled out, Netanyahu was more susceptible to pressure from the Right. Knowing there is no legal solution to Amona, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett also had hoped there would be wiggle room to find an alternative.
Once the Americans closed off the wiggle room, Bennett changed his strategy vis-à-vis Netanyahu. He decided he would no longer accept it that Likud politicians were pretending to be Amona’s benefactors, outflanking him and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on the Right while they played statesmanlike roles due to her ministerial post.
Bennett had received plenty of condemnation from his constituents in the outposts and their supporters due to his stance, and he began to worry that he might be the one who could be evacuated from his job. After Yom Kippur, Bennett turned to Netanyahu and told him that he must deliver to his coalition partner at least a request to the High Court to postpone the decision on Amona.
Bayit Yehudi officials made the request sound like an ultimatum.
Netanyahu’s office correctly countered that Bennett was once again taking credit for a decision that had already been made by others, in this case in a meeting attended by Netanyahu and Shaked days earlier.
The credit game does not matter. Because of the politics of Netanyahu, Bennett, and Obama, Amona’s fate remains up in the air.
But it is clear that the residents of Amona will not lose their homes before Obama loses his in January.