State Ordered to Explain Its Failure to Demolish Amona

The Supreme Court issued a show cause order yesterday requiring the state to explain its failure to evacuate and dismantle the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, which was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

The outpost, located near Ofra, was started in 1995, and continued to grow despite demolition orders issued in 1997, 2003 and 2004.

On February 1, 2006, the state razed nine houses, sparking fierce clashes between police and settlers.

In 2008, eight Palestinians from nearby villages petitioned the court against the outpost's continued existence. The state agreed that Amona was built illegally on private Palestinian land and promised to raze it, but only when it deemed the time right. The state recently told the court that the time is not ripe now, as all its resources are devoted to enforcing the 10-month freeze on settlement construction that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Washington.

Yesterday, the petitioners' attorney, Michael Sfard, told the court that work recently began on a new building in Amona, in violation of the freeze, yet "the building wasn't demolished."

Attorney Yaron Kosteliz, representing Amona residents, countered that newly discovered documents show that Amona bought the land in the 1990s - prompting a sarcastic comment from Justice Elyakim Rubinstein about the "miracle" of this discovery occurring "one day before the hearing."

Nevertheless, Kosteliz said, the state is now investigating this claim, and a decision on razing the houses should await the outcome.

The bench, headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, opted instead to order the state to justify its inaction within 90 days - a necessary legal precursor to ruling definitively for the petitioners.