Amona’s settlers have refused an offer to relocate their hilltop West Bank outpost, even though Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit said Sunday that the latest legislative drive to legalize their homes is unconstitutional.
“Our homes can’t be moved. Our lives are not an instance of copy and paste,” Amona spokesman Avichai Boaron said.
He spoke after Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked deferred until next Sunday a debate on a bill designed to help the 40 families remain in their homes. The High Court of Justice has ordered the homes razed by the end of December because they were built without permits on private Palestinian property.
Shaked had initially agreed that the Ministerial Legislative Committee would vote on a bill to retroactively legalize settler homes built on private Palestinian land, such as in Amona, in exchange for granting compensation to the original land owners.
Netanyahu has in the past opposed large scale legislative efforts to tackle the issue of unauthorized outposts and homes in the West Bank. He has not spoken publicly on the matter and it is presumed that he is opposed to this legislative drive as well.
Right-wing politicians are hopeful that, given the rightwing composition of his coalition and the broad support of its members for Amona, that Netanyahu might, in this case, take the legislative route to save the hilltop community.
But those hopes were dashed on Sunday, at a meeting with the heads of the coalition parties and Mandelblit. He told them that the bill, which was penned by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) and MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), is unconstitutional and would not stand up in court.
Shaked’s response was to delay the discussion of the bill by a week in hopes that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman would come up with an alternative relocation plan in the coming days.
In the past months, Amona residents turned down the offer of legal homes near the Shiloh settlement. This newest offer, however, would relocate their homes to a site that is very close to the outpost’s current location on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement.
Right-wing politicians who promised that Amona would not be destroyed are hopeful that the proximity of the new site to their old homes and to Ofra would make it acceptable to the outpost’s residents.
They envision a compromise situation akin to what happened to the Migron outpost, which like Amona was built on private Palestinian property.
In 2012, the government relocated the 50 families in the Migron outpost to a new legal site, just a few kilometers away from their old one.
Amona residents, have insisted, however, that the Ministry of Housing and Construction made them believe that the outpost would eventually be legalized by granting them NIS 2.16 million for infrastructure when the outpost was first built in 1995.
“The government made promises to us, that it now must keep,” said Boaron.
The compensation bill to retroactively legalize the homes is akin to what would happen if the structures were discovered to be on someone else’s private property in Tel Aviv, he said.
“Our blood is not less red than other residents of this country. If their homes can be legalized, then so can ours.
If Ayelet Shaked wants to go against the voters who put her in office, she can. But we won’t accept any kind of relocation plan,” Boaron said. “Are we not people? Do we not have children?” he asked.
He warned that the demolition of their homes would endanger some 2,000 others throughout the West Bank, which were similarly unauthorized.
The bill by Moalem-Refaeli and Kisch attempts to tackle the status of these homes located in outposts and unauthorized homes in otherwise legal settlements. They were built in many cases with governmental support, including monetary grants.
The families that built their homes there, in many cases, learned only later that they were living on private Palestinian property, the bill stated.
In some cases the government officials didn’t know that the land in question was private Palestinian property and in other cases they believed that a solution could be found, the bill states.
There is a growing belief among the settlement population that what should have been a normal technical process has been halted by political and diplomatic consideration that would not have been in play had their homes been located elsewhere, the bill stated.
It noted that many of the homes are located in areas that are strategically important, particularly from a security perspective.
“By passing this bill, we can save this community from destruction and prevent a precedent that would harm other communities in Judea and Samaria,” she said.
“When it comes to Amona’s existence, the hourglass is slowly running out of time,” warned Moalem-Refaeli.
But MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Union), who in the past served as a Defense Ministry adviser on settlement affairs, said that all the political will in the world won’t make the bill constitutional.
“It’s not acceptable to the High Court of Justice and it is even less acceptable to the international community and our allies within it,” Broshi said. He warned that outpost residents are endangering the entire settlement enterprise.
The political drive to save Amona comes amid a renewed push to revive the peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.
The prime minister is under pressure from the European Union and the United States not to take steps to retroactively legalize outposts or settler homes in the West Bank.
Amona is famous for the violent clashes that occurred there in 2006 between security forces and the settlers when the IDF came to raze nine illegally built homes.
In 2014, the High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of the entire outpost in response to a petition by the NGO Yesh Din, which represents 10 families from the nearby village of Silwad who claim ownership of the land.