Israel Seeks Palestinian Property Claims Ahead of Amona Outpost Removal

An advertisement published in a Palestinian newspaper is aimed at helping Israeli officials decide whether they can move the unauthorized settlement to a nearby location rather than uproot it entirely.

A file photo of the Amona outpost.
Olivier Fitoussi

The army’s Civil Administration in the West Bank has published a map of suspected absentee property near the Amona, giving Palestinians a chance to claim property before a decision is made as to where the move the unauthorized outpost.

The ad in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds comes a few days after a special committee recommended options for moving Amona’s residents to nearby abandoned land.

Ad in Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds showing map of land suspected of being absentee property near the unauthorized outpost of Amona.
Courtesy

Thursday’s announcement calls for Palestinians who claim ownership of land in the area to contact the Civil Administration.

The map shows some 30 plots where the outpost could be transferred, across an area of more than 200 dunams (50 acres). Some of the plots are only a few meters from Amona’s current site in the northern West Bank.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ordered that the status of land around Amona be looked into. By the end of the month, Mendelblit is expected to announce his position on the committee’s recommendations.

In recent days, political sources have said they expect Mendelblit to accept the panel’s recommendations. The High Court of Justice has given the residents until December 25 to evacuate the outpost. The settlers themselves have suggested they would accept such a deal if the land is next to the outpost’s current location near the settlement of Ofra.

The special committee consisted of senior legal counsels from various government ministries. Its recommendations state that, based on the High Court ruling, Amona must be evacuated and its buildings, where some 40 families live, must be dismantled and removed by the end of December.

But the recommendations state that the Amona families can lease the adjacent plots whose owners are defined as “missing,” having probably left the area in 1967 after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War.

According to the committee’s recommendations, these plots would be leased to the settlers for three years at a time, extendable after each period. Any homes built must be movable, not permanent. Rental payments for the land would go to a fund for Palestinians who prove ownership.

Amona went up in 1997 on private land next to Ofra. In 2006, the evacuation of nine permanent buildings led to a violent confrontation between the security forces and the settlers. The outpost has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle after landowners sued with the help of rights group Yesh Din.

The settlers claimed to have bought some of the plots at Amona legally, but an expert opinion delivered to the court found that some of the paperwork had been falsified. In late 2014, then-Supreme Court President Asher Grunis ordered Amona evacuated within two years.