Israel's AG Stalls Establishment of New Settlement for Amona Evacuees

Some settler leaders claim that low building project figures for West Bank show that a de facto construction freeze is in force

Mobile homes set up in Shiloh for the evacuees from Amona in January.
Emil Salman

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit says a legal problem prevents the establishment of a new settlement for the evacuees from the illegal outpost of Amona, political sources told Haaretz Tuesday.

According to the attorney general, the new settlement would need a special order by the army's commanding general in the area, but such an order is not legal when planning laws have to be circumvented to carry it out. Mendelblit’s opposition comes despite requests from officials including the prime minister to approve the new settlement.

For the time being, the 40 families evacuated from Amona are being housed in very crowded conditions in school buildings in the settlement of Ofra. They are demanding that the government make good on a promise to immediately establish a temporary settlement for them near the settlement of Shiloh, where their permanent settlement is to be established. But to do so would mean circumventing planning laws for which the special order must be signed.

According to a source familiar with the details, Mendelblit said a few weeks ago he was opposed to establishing the settlement based on the general’s signature and preferred the normal legal channels. According to the source, there is no real chance that such an order will be signed after Mendelblit made his decision, despite pressure from the right wing.

Meanwhile, the usual planning procedure for the new settlement, which has been named Amichai, is moving ahead. The Civil Administration's settlement subcommittee approved it, along with other building projects in the territories.

The plan for Amichai includes 102 housing units, although only 40 families were evacuated from Amona. Plans for Amichai have reached the stage of publication so the public can view them and register opposition, but according to law enforcement officials, it will take at least a few months before settlers can be housed at Amichai.

The settlement subcommittee also made progress on various phases of approval for around 2,000 housing units in the settlements of Ma’aleh Michmash, Talmon and Halamish (Neveh Tzuf). Agricultural land has been rezoned for housing construction in Ofra, and planning was moved ahead on a few units in the settlement of Psagot. But most of the plans moved ahead for housing units – around 840 – are for projects in the city of Ariel.

The plans advanced by the subcommittee are for a much smaller number of housing units than the heads of West Bank settlements had hoped. They were hoping for 10,000 units, and when the defense minster and the prime minister's people told them the number would be much lower, they were hoping for 5,000 units at least.

Some settlement leaders released statements critical of the prime minister, claiming that the figures showed that a de facto construction freeze was in force in the West Bank settlements.