Protesters demanded that the government halt the pending demolition of nine stone homes in the Ofra settlement and 40 modular ones in the Amona outpost.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Checks and balances are the heart of every healthy democracy. It should, therefore, be a cause for worry for those of us who value Israel’s democracy that the present government seems to be attempting to bypass a High Court decision on Amona.
On Monday, the High Court rejected the government’s request for another delay in implementing a court order to demolish Amona, which was built on private Palestinian land. The justices ruled that Amona must be evacuated by December 25.
This week, the government began advancing legislation that would legalize settlements like Amona despite the fact that they were built on privately owned land.
Apparently, politicians on the Right believe that such a law would allow them to override the High Court’s ruling.
However, Chief Justice Miriam Naor wrote in her decision that the new legislation, which is slated to come up for a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday after being approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday, has no bearing on the High Court ruling.
The court’s decision had to be upheld. Failing to do so would send out a negative message that High Court decisions could be ignored if a segment of Israeli society – in this case residents of Judea and Samaria and their supporters – threatened violence.
We agree. The High Court ruling must be upheld.
The balance of power between Israel’s judicial and legislative branches must be respected. Our political and judicial leaders must not be intimidated by the threats of violence made by those opposed to the evacuation of Amona.
Ultimately, however, the future of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is not a legal or legislative matter that can be solved in the Knesset or the courtroom. It is a diplomatic issue that needs to be dealt with within the framework of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. The prime minister supports a negotiated arrangement with the Palestinians. He has said so on numerous occasions since his 2009 Bar Ilan speech. In 2012, a Netanyahu-led government rejected the “outpost bill,” which sought to legalize outposts in Judea and Samaria.
Now his position seems to have changed. But his choice not to openly oppose the “Regulations Act” – which skirts the problem of expropriating Palestinian land by giving Israel the right to use the land without rescinding ownership – seems motivated primarily by his concern about losing votes on the Right to his political adversary Naftali Bennett, chairman of Bayit Yehudi. Netanyahu knows that most of his constituents in the Likud oppose the evacuation of Amona.
This is a time for true leadership. As prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has an obligation to uphold the High Court decision and, as an extension, the balance of powers between the judiciary and the legislative branches.
We sympathize with the plight of the 40 families of Amona who will be uprooted from their homes. They settled in Amona with the tacit, if not explicit, support of consecutive governments that provided them with roads, water, electricity and other infrastructure. True, they could have easily inquired and discovered that the land set aside for Amona belonged to private individuals.
But government ministers led them to believe the matter would be sorted out and settlers relied on these promises.
Under more normal circumstances, a compromise could have been reached with the Palestinian landowners.
Generous monetary compensation was offered to them in exchange for abandoning their claims to the land. Unfortunately, accepting such compensation would be tantamount to collusion with Israel in the selling of Palestinian land, an offense punishable by death under Fatah’s “moderate” rule.
There are no easy answers, but the High Court is the final arbiter on these questions, and the High Court has made its decision. Whether or not the Knesset passes on Wednesday the bill to legalize outposts such as Amona, the government must uphold the High Court’s decision or risk undermining Israel’s democracy.