Israeli settlers resist demolition of illegal Amona outpost
Israeli children from the West Bank settlement of Amona walk past their homes, September 7, 2016. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Israeli settlers residing in the soon-to-be demolished illegal Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank held an emergency meeting on Monday evening following an Israeli Supreme Court decision to continue with evacuation plans in the community, and pledged to resist any demolitions carried out in the area.
The Amona outpost, where at least 40 Israeli families reside, was slated for demolition in 2008 after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Palestinians whose private land the settlement outpost was built on.
The spokesperson for the Amona outpost, Avihai Boaron, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying during the meeting that the settlers would “stand here like a bulwark” in response to the court’s decision, and called for those who supported the outpost’s resistance to construct a tent city at the outpost as a protest demonstration.
Boaron also pleaded for the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that “It’s up to you [Netanyahu] to save us or sacrifice us,” and urged him to pass legislation that could retroactively legalize the outpost.
“Pass the bill and remove the sword of evacuation and transfer from over our heads,” Boaron was quoted as saying, referring to the so-called formalization bill being introduced in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that could retroactively legalize some 232 Israeli outposts scattered across the West Bank -- most built on private Palestinian land -- which are considered illegal by the Israeli government.
The emergency meeting in Amona was held in response to Monday’s Israeli Supreme Court decision to dismiss a petition presented by the Israeli government to postpone the evacuation of the illegal outpost.
The Israeli State Attorney’s office had requested the postponement on the basis that it could not arrange alternative housing for the residents of Amona before the target evacuation date of Dec. 25 this year, with Palestinian landowners filing an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court last week rejecting the demands to postpone.
The petition was the latest of a long succession of attempts by right-wing Israeli officials to thwart the court decision since Palestinians successfully petitioned the Supreme Court for the removal of the outpost.
The Jerusalem Post also quoted a resident of Amona, Tamar Nizri, who said during the meeting that it was “a crime to pull people from their homes.”
“We want justice and that is the law that should exist here,” she said, while adding that Israeli soldiers should not follow the orders given by the Supreme Court. “Hitler’s soldiers were also just following orders,” she said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman released a statement on Tuesday urging the residents not to resist the demolitions for the sake of avoiding dragging the Israeli army into “a political event,” according to The Times of Israel, as Israeli politicians fear the government evacuation could erupt into clashes with government forces and settlers.
“I can’t accept the things that I heard this morning about resisting evacuation. I expect all the Knesset members to be very clear about this,” Lieberman was quoted as saying.
Right-wing Israeli officials have organized for years to prevent the demolition of the outpost and have scrambled to find an alternative housing solution for the current residents, including proposals tolease privately held Palestinian land whose owners reside outside of the West Bank, build a new settlement for the evacuees near the already-established settlement of Shiloh in Nablus, and attempt to introduce a bill that could retroactively legalize the outpost.
On Monday, Head of the US State Department's communications department Elizabeth Trudeau condemned Israel’s “formalization bill," which was unanimously approved by Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Sunday and which, if passed, could see the legalization of Amona and other Israeli settlement outposts built on top of privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.
“Israel’s own attorney general has reportedly expressed serious concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed legislation. If this law were enacted, it could pave the way for the legalization of dozens of illegal outposts deep in the West Bank,” Trudeau said in the statement, adding that the move would be an “unprecedented” and “troubling step” which would contradict Israeli legal policy that prohibits building on private Palestinian land.
“We believe [settlements] are corrosive to the cause of peace. This legislation would be a dramatic advancement of the settlement enterprise, which is already gravely endangering the prospects for a two-state solution,” she added, before expressing her hope that the bill would not make it through the final stages of the legislative process.
After appeals from right-wing Israeli government officials, and attempts by Amona settlers to prove they had legally purchased the land, an Israeli police investigation in May 2014 found the entirety of the outpost to have been built on private Palestinian lands, and that the documents used by Amona residents to claim their purchases were in fact forged.
The Israeli government has continued to be embroiled in conflict over the Supreme Court ruling, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat threatening last week that any dismantlement of the illegal Israeli outpost would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking Israeli-issued building permits in occupied East Jerusalem.
While the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government -- despite authorities commonly retroactively legalizing the outposts, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank are also constructed in direct violation of international law.
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