The state has proposed that the residents of Amona, an illegal settlement in the West Bank, move temporarily to a residential plot in the industrial zone of Shilo, until the construction of a planned new settlement in the area of Shvut Rachel. All three locations are in the West Bank.
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The Supreme Court has ruled that Amona, which was built on private Palestinian land, must be evacuated by the end of the year.
Amona residents say that they have rejected the proposal, which was put to them in recent months.
Nevertheless, the proposal remains on the table, as far as the state is concerned, and is being assessed along with other possible solutions.
Caravan housing could be erected in the Shilo industrial area within a very short timeframe, according to knowledgeable sources. It apparently does not involve any lengthy bureaucratic procedures.
But the clock is ticking. The Supreme Court has ruled that Amona must be evacuated by December 25 – in another two-and-a-half months.
The residents of the settlement have been waging a public battle against evacuation. Initially they demanded that the Knesset pass a law that would leave the settlement in place by legalizing building on private land.
That demand was rejected by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who believes that such a law would be illegal and would not be approved by the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, the residents demanded that the settlement be relocated to nearby land on the same hill which ostensibly belongs to Palestinians who fled from the area after the Six Day War.
However, after the numbers of the plots which they proposed be given the status of abandoned assets were published, Palestinians from surrounding villages submitted documents which they maintained proved their ownership of the majority of the plots.
If those claims are proved correct, the effort to change the status of the plots to abandoned properties, will be a lot more difficult, if not impossible.
The planning committee of the Civil Administration last week approved a plan to build 98 housing units in a new settlement, to be erected adjacent to Shvut Rachel. According to the plan, the capacity of the proposed area would be 300 housing units and an industrial zone.
The caravan park in the industrial area of Shilo is regarded as an interim step between the evacuation of Amona and the establishment of the new settlement – a move that the Amona residents have rejected.
The intention to build a new settlement has been sharply criticized in Washington. A statement issued by the State Department on Wednesday said that "the approval contradicts previous assurances by the government of Israel."
The statement, which was signed by Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department, added that "the location of the settlement would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank."
"It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and the U.S. concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel's security, that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long term security interests," the statement said.
The committee representing the Amona residents responded: "We have no intention of leaving our homes for any other place. This is where we gave birth to our children, where we built out homes and where we intend to remain.
"Any attempt to move us will prove a failure. The efforts should focus on finding legal solutions and passing the legislation, because Amona won't fall again."