Court Suspends Amona Settlers' Relocation Deal Due to Palestinian Land Claims

The court had already ordered the current site of the outpost evacuated by February 8, after ruling that the outpost was built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Children in Amona, November 2016.
Gil Cohen-Magen

The High Court of Justice issued a temporary order Monday suspending the redivision of plots necessary for the relocation of residents of the West Bank outpost of Amona.

The court had already ordered the current site of the outpost evacuated by February 8 after ruling that it was built on privately owned Palestinian land. The state had planned to relocate residents to a nearby site, but Monday's order, which was issued in light of the filing of claims by Palestinians to portions of the new site, puts a halt to any work on infrastructure or buildings at the new site for the time being at least.

Amona's residents had committed unconditionally to leave the current site of the outpost, but on Sunday they announced that they would renew opposition to their eviction.

In issuing the new order, Justice Salim Joubran announced that a hearing on the merits of the claims in the case would be held "as soon as possible." He ordered the state to respond to the Palestinian claims "within 72 hours prior to the hearing." In addition to ordering a temporary halt to the redivision of plots at the new site, Joubran ordered the state to refrain from building on the plots to which the Palestinian petitioners claim ownership "including preparing the site or any other action that changes the existing situation on the ground" as long as the court issues no further decision.

Last week, the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank scrapped plans to move Amona residents to one of the plots at the new site in light of Palestinian land ownership claims there. As a result, however, the Civil Administration had hoped to subdivide plots to separate those areas claimed by Palestinians who remained in the region and others who had left and whose land was deemed abandoned. The plan had been to settle the Amona residents on the abandoned portions of the site. The state has been managing the abandoned land until such time if and when the owners return. 

On Monday, nine individual Palestinians and the council head for the nearby Palestinian community of Silwad petitioned the court seeking an order barring subdividing the plots. Represented by the left-wing Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, they claimed ownership or at least other ties to some of the plots and said the forced redivision of the plots was in violation of the law.