The state is seeking to delay the evacuation of the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona on the contention that doing so at this time could harm Israel's diplomatic interests. The court must decide whether to make a ruling in the case or to give the state another 14 days to explain its position.
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While the state has evacuated some sections of Amona, which was first established in 1995, it is taking the position that it will not demolish the structures on the remaining parcels, which it asserts are not subject to pending court petitions and over which no claim is being made that settlers have purchased them.
At a High Court hearing in August, Justices Asher Grunis, Esther Hayut and Hanan Melcer expressed dissatisfaction over the state’s position, and ordered the residents of Amona to present their position to the court prior to a final ruling on the matter. The residents submitted their stance on Thursday, arguing that the state had in the past already made it clear that it did not intend to evacuate land that was not the subject of a petition before the courts.
In laying out possible scenarios the justices noted the government’s position that “an eviction of such magnitude at such a time as this could harm political interests.” However, they pointed out, “when it involves harm to the property rights of the individual, there may be instances in which diplomatic considerations will also be rejected.” Still, they added, “when on one hand weighty diplomatic considerations are present and on the other there is no concrete petitioner asserting individual rights, the force of political considerations prevails.”
In response, the state claimed that the absence of a specific petitioner in the parcels at issue makes it impossible for the state to enter into negotiations over compensation claims, as residents of Amona would like to pursue.
For his part, however, Michael Sfard, the legal adviser to Yesh Din, the human rights group, said the state’s request deals with a subject that the High Court of Justice already ruled on some two months ago. “The state is again acting in the service of lawbreakers and despite the fact that it isn’t producing any new fact or argument, it is asking the court to consider a matter than has already been considered and ruled upon,” he said, adding that any child would understand that it is only the narrow interest of coalition politics that would be served by deferring an eviction.
The removal of the outpost has been before the courts for the past five years, following a court petition filed by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din and some of the owners of the land on which the outpost is situated. Amona, which was one of the first unauthorized outposts built in the West Bank after the Oslo accords, was established on a hill near the settlement of Ofra north of Jerusalem. It was built on land registered to individual Palestinians from the nearby village of Silwad.
In 2006, the state demolished nine structures in Amona. Recently the residents of the outpost demolished another structure of their own accord as a result of a petition before the High Court of Justice filed by the owners of that land. In an effort to buttress their case for remaining at the outpost, residents of Amona have asserted over the years that the land was empty prior to their arrival.
The state evacuated two plots at the outpost owned by individuals who filed petitions to the High Court. Further action involving three other parcels on which 20 buildings are situated was suspended after a partnership owned by the setters purchased portions of the plots. A case involving the dissolution of the partnership is currently before the Jerusalem magistrate's court.