High Court to state: Demolish Amona outpost in 6 months
Amona, near Ofra, is one of the oldest outposts in the West Bank; police clashed with protesters in 2006 over demolished homes.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday gave the state six months to schedule the demolition of the Amona outpost, located on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region.Built around 1995, Amona is one of the oldest outposts in the West Bank. It is best known, however, for the clashes that took place there on February 1, 2006, when the army and the police demolished nine permanent homes that were built there without proper permits. Some 200 soldiers, police, settlers and activists were injured when protesters took a stand inside the homes, and refused to leave until they were forcibly evacuated.In spite of the clashes, the outpost remained intact.In 2008, the organization Yesh Din petitioned the court on behalf of 10 Palestinians, who say that the Amona outpost is built on their land.The state has long consented that the outpost is built on private Palestinian land, but the IDF has yet to evacuate it, and the courts have yet to force its demolition.Yesh Din and its attorney Michael Sfard said they were disappointed by the court’s decision, which they believed was a tactic to delay the evacuation of Amona.“Unfortunately, the court decided yet again to trust the empty promises of the state’s authorities regarding executing demolition and evacuation orders of illegal outposts in the West Bank – erected against the law on private land – in defiance of official government decisions,” says Yesh Din Director Haim Erlich.AdvertisementAttorney Michael Sfard, the legal adviser of Yesh Din, added, “In this stage of the legal debate about dismantling outposts, the state is attempting to deceive everybody. It tells the international community one thing, the Israeli public another thing and the courts a third thing. But as the saying goes, you cannot fool all the people all of the time. Yesh Din will continue to assist the landowners until their property is returned to them.”Attorney for the Amona outpost Yaron Kosteliz, however, was relieved that the state did not have to respond to the court for another half a year. He said the extra time worked to the outpost’s advantage because it allowed him to explore ways to sway the court that the small hilltop community was legal.Kosteliz said that he had a document which showed that the Defense Ministry, then headed by Binyamin Eliezer, had authorized the outpost.Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said that if the land was privately owned by Palestinians than it would not matter if the community itself had received the authorization of the Defense Ministry.But Kosteliz has separately argued that settlers had purchased the land on which the outpost stands from Palestinians.Amona residents have long argued that their outpost is located within the municipal boundaries of the Ofra settlements. They also point to an agreement made in 1999 with then-prime minister Ehud Barak, which would allow them to remain in their homes.