Right-wing politicians scrambling to save West Bank Amona outpost

Amona was first built in 1995, on the edge of the Ofra settlement. It is home to some 40 families and is located in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.

The Amona outpost in the West Bank (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The Amona outpost in the West Bank
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Right-wing politicians are scrambling to save the West Bank outpost of Amona — which is slated for demolition by the end of December — even if it means standing in opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Sunday they hope to present a bill to the Ministerial Legislative Committee which would retroactively legalize settler homes built on private Palestinian land, such as in Amona’s case, in exchange for granting compensation to the original land owners.
The Palestinian land owners would be given the option of an alternative plot of land close to their homes or financial compensation.
MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) and MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) are spearheading this drive. They are putting the bill forward now, because they would like to see it come to a vote before the Knesset breaks for its summer recess.
“When it comes to Amona’s existence, the hourglass is slowly running out of time,” warned Moalem-Refaeli.
“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.
Netanyahu has in the past opposed large scale legislative efforts to tackle the issue of unauthorized outposts and homes in the West Bank.
Politicians are hopeful that given the right wing composition of his coalition and the opposition of its members to the demolition of Amona, that Netanyahu might, in this case, take the legislative route to save the hilltop community.
But the 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 retro-actively legalize settler homes in the West Bank.
The bill explains that outposts like Amona, or the unauthorized homes in otherwise legal settlements were built in many cases with governmental support, including monetary grants. The families that built there 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 stated.
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 strategically important, particularly from a security perspective.
Amona was first built in 1995, on the edge of the Ofra settlement. It is home to some 40 families and is located in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.
On Thursday night the Campaign to Save Amona urged Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) to bring the legislation up for a debate and a vote.
“Ayelet, there is a clear majority to pass this law. If that happens, Amona will be saved,” they said.
Late Friday afternoon Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said she spoke with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) about Amona. She was under the impression, Regev said, that he was doing his best to find an alternative path to save Amona that was not dependent on legislation.
Separately, MK Miki Zohar (Likud) has also drafted a bill that calls for a seven-year waiting period between the release of an administrative demolition order and its implementation.
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 permanent illegally built homes.
In 2014 the High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of the entire outpost, because it built without permits on land which belongs to private Palestinian.
The HCJ issued it’s ruling 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.
Amona residents, however, have noted that it was also constructed with NIS 2.16 million from the Construction Ministry.
Amona residents have argued that the government gave them initiation approvals to build that were never finalized.
They have added that the government must now find a legal solution for them to remain in their homes.