Senior Israeli Minister Vows Annexation of Entire West Bank After 'Painful' Evacuation of Amona

Amona settlers are heroes, Education Minister Naftali Bennett tells Knesset as outpost built on private Palestinian land is evacuated.

Settlers stand outside Amona outpost, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES OF AMONA EVACUATION HERE

Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett promised on Wednesday that after the "painful loss" of the illegal outpost of Amona the annexation of the entire West Bank will follow.

Police forces pushed into the outpost on Wednesday noon and began to enforce the High Court ruling ordering the evacuation of the outpost, illegally built on private Palestinian land.

Bennett, speaking at the Knesset, called the Amona settlers "heroes," and said that the bill which legalizes the seizure of private Palestinian land will soon be passed, putting an end to the "method of legal uprooting" of Israeli outposts. "Thanks to the campaign in Amona, thousands of families will be rescued from being evicted from their homes. I call on the pioneers of our generation, the settlers of Judea and Samaria, to lift up your heads," he said.

Meanwhile, a fellow Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker compared Amona's evacuating to "brutally raping a woman." 

"When someone rapes a woman it hurts. What they're doing here now is a brutal rape. They're going to remove innocent people from their home," Bezalel Smotrich, who arrived at the outpost early Wednesday, told the Ynet news website. 

Habayit Hayehudi lawmakers have been exempted from Knesset votes today by the chairman of the ruling coalition due to the evacuation. Apart from Smotrich, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and lawmakers Oren Hazan (Likud) and Shuli Moallem (Habayit Hayehudi) also arrived at the outpost. 

Political leaders from the right and left, including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and party co-leader Tzippi Livni, expressed sympathy for the residents being evacuated from Amona, but reiterated the need to refrain from violence and obey the law. 

"My heart is with the residents," said Lieberman, speaking in the settlement of Ariel. "I think that compassion and understanding for their small protest is natural in a democratic country in which protesting is a basic right." The defense minister added that he hoped the protest would remain "within the framework of the law." 

"Despite the pain and despite the rage I expect the rules of the game to be observed," said Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. 

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also expressed understanding for "the pain of the families and the evacuees. It's a hard day. I call on the residents to respect the court decision and not to stray from legitimate non-violent protest," said the leader of the Zionist Union party, warning those in Amona not to raise a hand against police who are simply enforcing the law. 

Herzog also urged security forces "to act with restraint and tolerance toward the families and those with them in Amona on this difficult day, and....to do everything to ensure that the evacuation ends without injuries."

Meanwhile Zionist Union co-leader Tzippi Livni said that while the evacuation of a person from his home is difficult and the pain of the families understandable, this should not be depicted as "a black day for Zionism."

"A day in which the sovereign state of Israel enforces the law will never be -- despite claims to the contrary -- a black day for Zionism. And more importantly, this should not turn into a difficult and black day for Israeli police and Israel Defense Forces soldiers," said Livni.