High Court Orders Demolition of Largest West Bank Outpost Within Two Years

Decision on Amona follows years of legal wrangling, dismantling of some buildings in the community, which was built in 1997.

The evacuation of Amona in 2006.
Limor Edry

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis has ordered the evacuation and complete demolition of Amona, the largest unauthorized settlement outpost on the West Bank, within two years.

Amona was built in 1997, on privately owned land near the settlement of Ofra, and now numbers some 50 families.

In 2006 the state dismantled nine permanent structures in the outpost. In 2008, local Palestinians petition the High Court of Justice, with the help of the Yesh Din legal advocacy organization, demanding the demolition of the entire outpost on the ground on the grounds that it had been built illegal on private Palestinian land.

The petition went through many stages, with the state undertaking to dismantle the outpost by the end of 2012. It then retracted that decision, saying it would only demolish structures on specific plots that had individual petitioners. At the same time, Amona residents said that they had purchased some of the plots. Israel Police’s forensic unit determined that some of the property deeds were forged.

Grunis, with the assent of justices Esther Hayut and Hanan Melcer, has now instructed the entire outpost be demolished.

A file photo of the Amona outpost.
Olivier Fitoussi

“These structures were built on privately owned land so there is no possibility of authorizing their construction, even retroactively,” Grunis wrote in his ruling. “The military commander of Judea and Samaria must act decisively to protect the private property of residents who are under his protection, including protection from the usurpation of and illegal construction on their lands. This illegal construction on private land requires giving the highest priority to the enforcement of work stoppage and demolition orders.”

Addressing settlers’ claims that some of the land was purchased legally, Grunis wrote that this does not affect the court’s decision. “Even the purchase of the land does not pave the way for building without permits, contrary to the zoning of thee plots. Such purchase does not negate the validity of the demolition orders. Any future changes to the settlers’ community status will not bestow validity on part or all of these structures.”

Grunis ended by saying that “the decision to evacuate inhabited dwellings was not made lightly. Undoubtedly the implications of carrying out the demolition orders will be hard and painful for the residents and their families, who settled there and established a communal settlement. Nevertheless, these difficulties cannot allow the validation of illegal construction on private land, and they cannot justify non-enforcement of the law.

Not evacuating these structures is in clear violation of the repeated commitment of the appellants to honor the demolition orders, as well as severely harming the rights of local residents who are denied access to their plots. The violation of the rule of law and of residents’ rights necessitates the evacuation of these structures despite the pain caused to their current inhabitants.”