Israel Set to Move Illegal West Bank Outpost to Adjacent 'Abandoned' Land

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The illegal outpost of Amona in 2014. State panel says residents should be allowed to move to adjacent land.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Settler leaders are hailing the recommendations of the Outposts Regulation committee, which sets out a legal mechanism for the residents of the illegal outpost of Amona in the northern West Bank to move to adjacent “abandoned” land, as revealed by Army Radio on Tuesday.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to announce his position on the recommendations by the end of the month.

In recent days, political sources have anticipated that Mendelblit will accept the panel’s recommendations regarding Amona. The High Court of Justice has given the inhabitants until December 25 to evacuate the outpost.

The settlers themselves indicate that they would accept such an arrangement as long as the land is next to the outpost’s present location, by the settlement of Ofra.

Last week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein visited Amona and told residents, “More and more leaders and jurists have understood that there is justice in your claims and that there are ways to legalize this.”

Responding to a question from Haaretz about whether Mendelblit numbers among those people, Edelstein said, “Everybody who deals with the topic realizes that police and soldiers are not the solution.”

The outposts panel consisted of senior legal counsels from various ministries. Its recommendations state that, per the High Court ruling, Amona must be evacuated and its buildings (in which some 40 families live) dismantled and removed, by the end of December. However, it says the Amona families can lease the adjacent plots of land, whose owners are defined as “missing,” having probably left the area in 1967.

According to the mechanism the committee suggests, these “abandoned” plots of land will be leased to the settlers for three years at a time, extendable after each such period. The homes the settlers erect on the plots have to be movable, not permanent. Rental payments for the land will go into a fund that the Palestinian landowners will receive if they prove ownership.

The Amona outpost was erected in 1997, on private land next to Ofra. In 2006, 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 a legal struggle for the last eight years, after some of the Palestinian landowners sued through the Yesh Din organization.

At first, the state undertook to demolish Amona by the end of 2012. But after delays, it announced that it would only demolish the plots claimed in the lawsuit.

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

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