State delays Givat Asaf, Amona outpost demolitions

Netanyahu, Barak ask High Court for one-year delay to demolish two West Bank settlement outposts it said it would evacuate by end of the year.

Migron outpost aerial_311 (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
Migron outpost aerial_311
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
The state agreed on Thursday to delay the impending demolitions of two unauthorized West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian property – Givat Assaf and Amona.
Both of the small hilltop communities in the Binyamin region were scheduled to be evacuated by the end of this year. Instead, the state notified the High Court of Justice that July was the new demolition date for Givat Assaf and that Amona would come down at the end of 2012.
RELATED:Habayit Hayehudi threatens coalition crisis over demolition PM: Lets fight for the settlement blocs, not the outposts
Right-wing politicians who had lobbied hard for the delay hailed it as a partial victory in a stiff struggle to prevent any further demolitions of settler homes.
“We won the battle, but not the war,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud).
But attorney Michael Sfard, who represented the Palestinian landowners at both outposts through the sponsorship of organizations Peace Now and Yesh Din, bitterly attacked the state’s decision.
“Today the government made it clear that it is not the law that rules in Israel, but the law-breakers,” he said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu angered his party members when he urged them not to invest their energy in preserving outposts on private Palestinian land.
“We do not need to build on land that belongs to someone else,” he said.
On Thursday, he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the High Court to delay the home demolitions in these two outposts from December of this year to July 2012, so the matter could be “solved by agreement.” The vague wording puzzled those on both the Right and the Left.
Still, it was good news for settlement residents and for right-wing politicians, for whom any delay means a chance to stave off the razing of homes.
They have now pinned their hopes on Netanyahu’s pledge to create an outpost committee to reexamine the status of land that the state has designated as belonging to private Palestinians.
Settlers believe that the state improperly classified the land and that upon closer examination, it could be determined that the property belongs to the state.
Home demolitions have become an issue due to a number of court petitions by Peace Now and Yesh Din against unauthorized construction in West Bank outposts.
Already last spring, the state told the court that it was looking at ways to authorize outpost construction on state land. It promised the court, however, to raze homes on private Palestinian land by the end of this year.
On Thursday, it partially backed away from that pledge.
With Givat Assaf, the state said it had begun talks with residents about relocating.
With regard to Amona, it said it believed the problem could be resolved.
Nonetheless, the state told the court that it still intends to take down some of the homes on the Ramat Gilad and Mitzpe Yitzhar outposts in Samaria. Both of those outposts are only partially built on private Palestinian property.
The state also still plans to demolish the Migron outpost in the Binyamin region in March.
Sfard dismissed the state’s remarks about the possibility of a peaceful resolution in Givat Assaf and Amona. He noted that the state had a long history of finding reasons for not moving against the unauthorized outposts.
“I don’t believe they need time to negotiate,” he said. “This is an excuse for not taking action now.”
But Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein argued that it wasn’t a matter of bypassing the law; rather, he said, time was needed to ensure that the law had been properly interpreted and that all attempts for a peaceful resolution had been made.
He asserted that it was important to avoid the kinds of clashes that occurred in 2006 between activists and police, when the army destroyed nine homes at the Amona outpost.
“We are talking about avoiding a totally unnecessary battle that would inflame the streets [of Judea and Samaria],” Edelstein said.