Bayit Yehudi proposal would legalize disputed outpost homes

Should the bill become law, it would save Amona, a small West Bank community near Ofra slated for demolition at the end of the year.

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June 5, 2016 17:46
2 minute read.
Mounted Israeli police scuffle with pro-settler supporters at the Amona outpost, February 1, 2006

Mounted Israeli police scuffle with pro-settler supporters at the Amona outpost, February 1, 2006. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Legislation introduced Sunday by Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli seeks to find a legal arrangement for homes built in the West Bank with government approval and later found to be on land owned by Palestinians.

Moalem-Refaeli’s bill would have the state pay “generous” compensation to the landowners in land and money, while legalizing the existing homes. The MK said the bill would be the equivalent of the state using eminent domain, which it has done in other circumstances.

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Should the bill become law, it would save Amona, a small community near Ofra first built in 1995, with NIS 2.16 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry.

Amona is slated for demolition at the end of the year.

Ten Palestinians from the nearby village of Silwad claimed ownership of the property in a petition to the High Court of Justice brought on their behalf by the NGO Yesh Din. In 2014, the High Court said the homes could not be legalized retroactively.

Amona’s 40 families rejected a reported plan to move them to a new, legal community near Shiloh.

Amona was the site of the most violent clashes between settlers and security forces in 2007, when the IDF demolished unauthorized homes.

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The community has lived in caravans since its inception.

Moalem-Refaeli accused authorities of “cruel treatment of settlers, destroying their homes, exposing them to lawsuits and presenting them as law-breakers,” behavior she called “unjustified.”

The bill’s explanatory portion states that most outposts and settlement homes scheduled for demolition were built in good faith, with encouragement and funding from the government; only later did the residents find out that it was private land.

“Legalizing Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is the only way to solve the problems of thousands of homes, such as in the town Amona, which were built with encouragement from Israeli governments for decades,” Moalem-Refaeli said. “This law proposes a solution that the government has used in the past, in similar circumstances.”

The Bayit Yehudi MK said the bill would also help Yehuda Ha’israeli, a soldier severely wounded in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, who cannot return to his home in Ofra because the Defense Ministry has refused to fund a ramp due to the disputed legal status of the land.

A crowdfunding page launched by the right-wing NGO My Israel on Friday to help make Ha’israeli’s home accessible raised over NIS 1.4m., which is more than twice the sum necessary.

Bayit Yehudi has proposed similar bills in the past; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vetoed one of them in the previous Knesset.

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) submitted nearly-identical legislation in October, but it did not make any progress.

A related bill was proposed in 2012 by then-National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz, causing divisions and infighting among the Right, with many Likud lawmakers saying they would support the opposition bill. Katz removed the bill from the docket ahead of its first vote at the last possible minute, in the middle of his speech to the plenum, acting on orders from Rabbi Zalman Melamed.

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