Court Kills Plan to Move Amona Settlers to Nearby Hillside; Netanyahu Vows New Settlement

If plan is carried out, new settlement would be established by the government for first time in more than 20 years.

A tractor removes debris blocking a road at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017 as Israeli security forces evict the hardline occupants of the wildcat settlement outpost in line with a High Court ruling that determined the homes were built on private Palestinian land.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

While Amona was being evacuated, Israel’s High Court on Wednesday formally overruled a plan to move the settlers to a nearby West Bank hillside.

The court had already suspended the Amona relocation deal on January 23, after Palestinians laid claim to the resettlement zone. The court then held subsequent hearings after which it permanently revoked the relocation option, in a decision rendered Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he had named a panel to advance the establishment of a new West Bank settlement to house those being evicted from the Amona outpost.

The new settlement is part of the understandings the Prime Minister’s Office had reached in talks with settlers from the unauthorized outpost. If the plan is carried out it would be the first new settlement established by the government in more than 20 years.

Netanyahu’s office said the panel would include representatives of Amona’s residents, the defense minister’s adviser on settlements and the chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The panel will begin work immediately in order to locate a site and to establish the new settlement.  Based on understandings reached with Amona’s residents, the government was committed to establish a new settlement for them by end of March if the High Court did not approve a proposed relocation plan.

Meanwhile, European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said Wednesday that Israel’s decision to build and make plans for 6,000 settlement housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, some deep inside the territory, endangers and threatens to render it impossible to achieve an envisaged two-state solution.

 Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the decision by saying that “in light of the High Court’s rejection of the Amona plan, the government must build a new settlement for Amona’s residents. This would be the proper Zionist response and should do it as soon as possible.”

Bennett, speaking at the Knesset, called the Amona settlers “heroes,” and said that the bill which legalizes the seizure of private Palestinian land will soon be passed, putting an end to the “method of legal uprooting” of Israeli outposts. “Thanks to the campaign in Amona, thousands of families will be rescued from being evicted from their homes,” he said.
Political leaders from the right and left, including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and party co-leader Tzippi Livni, expressed sympathy for the residents being evacuated from Amona, but reiterated the need to refrain from violence and obey the law. 

‘Like rape’

On Wednesday, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) likened the evacuation of Amona to rape. “When someone rapes a woman it hurts. What they’re doing here now is a brutal rape,” Smotrich, who arrived at the outpost early Wednesday, told the Ynet news website. “They’re going to remove innocent people from their home.”

A lawmaker from the opposition Zionist Union party strongly criticized Smotrich remark, calling it a “miserable comment which shows absolute loss of moral judgement.” MK Ayelet Nachmias Verbin said, “Rape is against the rules of morality and law and cannot be compared to the evacuation of Amona which is the enforcing of the law according to the High Court’s ruling.”