Amona’s precedent

No one wanted to see scenes of Jews being forcibly removed from their homes, even if they were built illegally as the High Court of Justice had ruled.

By
December 19, 2016 20:35
3 minute read.
Amona

ISRAELI YOUTHS construct a barrier using tires in the settler outpost of Amona yesterday. . (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

The deal reached between the government and the residents of Amona will prevent violent scenes of security personnel grappling with settlers on a hilltop in Samaria. And for that we should be thankful. There was a national interest in avoiding a rerun of the clashes between security forces and settlers that tainted the previous evacuation of nine buildings in Amona in February 2006. Violent demonstrations that pit patriotic Israeli citizens against police and soldiers is demoralizing and polarizing.

Following earlier settlement evacuations, relations between the Right and the Left, as well as between national religious and secular Israelis, were strained.

Many religious Zionists became disillusioned with state institutions – particularly the IDF and police. The feeling among many religious Zionists was that IDF soldiers were being exploited to carry out actions that were – at least from their point of view – detrimental to Israel’s security. The question of conscientious objection to army service or refusing specific military commands related to the evacuation of settlements threatened to undermine the IDF, an institution that brings together diverse segments of Israeli society for a common purpose.

Members of the Left felt betrayed by the settlers who rejected government and military authority on the issue of evacuating settlements. As soldiers, many members of the Left had for years protected Jewish settlements on the West Bank despite their ideological opposition to the settlement project. They expected settlers to do the same in the name of national unity.

A peaceful resolution to the Amona crisis, therefore, is a blessing for the nation.

At the same time, the deal came at a hefty financial price that sets a potentially problematic precedent for future evacuations – of both Jews and Arabs.

The deal reached between the government and Amona’s residents will cost the State of Israel about NIS 150 million. Expenditures include the building of infrastructure for the new location, new roads, temporary buildings, compensation for the 40 families of Amona, hotel accommodations during the transition period, expenses connected to the moving of residents’ belongings and security costs.

Amona’s residents deserve to be compensated for the evacuation. Since 1995 when Israelis first began settling in Amona, consecutive governments provided them with water, electricity, roads and general legitimacy for the settlement. Not only did the state not warn the residents of Amona that their settlement was built illegally, it provided them with all the necessary services and funding to expand.

So while Amona’s residents could have gotten their hands on documentation that showed that the land on which their settlement was built belonged to Palestinians, the message they got from the state was that they could stay. And now the state has an obligation to compensate them.

However, beyond the NIS 1m. that each of the 40 families will be receiving, the state will be footing the bill for expenses connected to moving the entire settlement to a nearby hilltop. Will future governments be forced to make similar arrangements with settlers to convince them to move peacefully? Will this level of compensation be extended to Beduin in the Negev, who live in illegally constructed housing? What about illegal building in east Jerusalem that is the result of foot dragging by city hall in providing housing for the Arab population? The deal reached with the residents of Amona prevented violent clashes between settlers and security forces. And it should therefore be welcomed. No one wanted to see scenes of Jews being forcibly removed from their homes, even if they were built illegally as the High Court of Justice had ruled.

The deal reached with the residents of Amona prevented violent clashes between settlers and security forces. And it should therefore be welcomed. No one wanted to see scenes of Jews being forcibly removed from their homes, even if they were built illegally as the High Court of Justice had ruled.

However, the budget devoted to the evacuation sets an expensive precedent for future evacuations – whether of Jews or Arabs. There are hundreds of illegal buildings that are slated for demolition – in Jerusalem, the Negev and throughout Judea and Samaria. If such a hefty sum is allocated in each case, evacuations – no matter how legitimate – will become too expensive to carry out.

On Friday, when it seemed that Amona was going to be evacuated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the state needs to “equalize the enforcement of the law” against illegal building, both in the Arab and Jewish sectors. The question now is whether it will also “equalize” compensation. Based on the Amona deal, it might need to.


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