Mofaz to raze illegal outpost by January

Decision in response to petition to High Court; Peace Now: January is too late.

amona aerial view 248.88 (photo credit: Peace Now)
amona aerial view 248.88
(photo credit: Peace Now)
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has pledged to demolish by January 2006 nine new permanent homes in the 30-family unauthorized outpost of Amona in Judea. His decision is in response to a High Court of Justice petition filed in July by the left-wing group Peace Now. On Sunday, Peace Now released court documents informing the case's plaintiffs and defendants of Mofaz's pledge. Mofaz's office has confirmed the information. But Peace Now said it was hardly jumping for joy at the news. "The end of January is very far away. Why will it take so long?" Peace Now spokesman Ya'ariv Oppenheir asked on Sunday. Peace Now's attorney, Michael Sfard, said the state has already told the court that the construction was illegal. The court's reaction was to ask Mofaz for a timetable for the demolition. Now that disengagement has passed, the court is once again pressing Mofaz for a schedule, Sfard said. The state had promised in August to demolish the homes after Israel completed its pullout from Gaza. In a government report released last march by attorney Talia Sasson, Amona was listed as one of 105 unauthorized outposts. It is one of 61 outposts listed in the report that were built on partly or wholly unauthorized land. But, even before the Sasson report, injunctions and demolition orders had been issued against the homes as early as October 2004. Amona, home to 30 families and established in 1996 on a hilltop opposite Ofra, considers itself to be the "first outpost." The families are living in small caravans on the site. Amona settler Yifat Ehrlich, whose family is among the nine that have built homes, had hoped to move in before she gives birth in two months. Now she is fearful she may never get to live in the 110-meter house that stands empty as she awaits the court's decision. She and the other families have abided by a court injunction not to move into the structures until the court case is completed. Dror Etkes from Peace Now, however, has pointed out that work on the home has continued in spite of the court case. Ehrlich said that she was unaware of any legal problems with the permanent housing plots when she decided to build there. She believes, however, that regardless of the legality of the plots, the presence of Amona on the hilltop is legal because it is situated within Ofra's municipal boundaries. Ehrlich was a resident of Ofra for six years. She said she started to build in Amona at the urging of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a meeting three or four years ago. "He asked me where I lived and I said Amona," she recalled, saying that he then urged her to start building there.