If the government has its way, Israeli taxpayers will be forced to make a huge financial contribution to settlers who broke the law, and build them new homes in place of the ones due to be demolished at the Amona outpost in the West Bank. There is no other way to interpret the government’s decision to compensate these lawbreakers by building them an alternative settlement.
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This time, it is not a “broadening” or an “expansion,” but an entire settlement that will comprise 139 housing units for the 40 families living in the illegal Amona outpost. The government has already pledged several times to dismantle the outpost, with the most recent demolition order set to be carried out by the end of the year. As the numbers indicate, not all of the apartments are actually meant for the Amona lawbreakers. The Amana settlement movement will be able to sell 90 of the units privately. So even the excuse that the construction is “merely” compensation for the evacuation cannot be taken seriously.
The Amona outpost has exemplified settlement criminality since its establishment on privately owned Palestinian land in 1997. For eight years, the outpost’s status has been debated in the courts, with the government – which acknowledges the construction violations and illegal seizure of land – delaying, rejecting and making a mockery of its commitments to the High Court of Justice. The Amona settlers, meanwhile, could care less about the High Court rulings and the government’s purported intention of razing their homes. As reported by Chaim Levinson in Haaretz on Saturday, they are calling on the government to whitewash their crime by means of a “creative legal solution,” which would crudely defy international law, the Palestinians’ rights and the standing of the State of Israel. None of these interest them compared to the unrestrained mission they have embarked upon, with the government’s encouragement.
The plan to build the new settlement in the northern West Bank reveals the dangerous paradox of the government’s policy. While plans to build the new settlement take shape, the government is also preparing to stave off an upcoming report by the Quartet, which is expected to be harshly critical of its settlement policy. Its main concern is that the United States might echo this wording rather than issue yet another mild rebuke to the Israeli government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would then be forced to clarify how declarations about his desire to resume negotiations without preconditions can be reconciled with the construction of a new settlement, which will amount to a powerful obstacle to any talks. And the prime minister must explain to Israelis right now why they should pay the political and economic penalty instead of the settlers.
This “compensation” plan should be shelved immediately, the Amona outpost must be demolished, and the construction violators should be prosecuted and obliged to pay compensation, as is customary in a state that abides by the rule of law.