Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett on Wednesday hailed the residents of Amona as “heroes” whose campaign to stay in their homes will lead to the annexation of the West Bank and avert future evacuations in the settlements.
The leader of the right-wing party spoke as hundreds of police and bulldozers entered the West Bank outpost to demolish it per a 2014 court order which ruled it was built on privately owned Palestinian land.
Several lawmakers from the Jewish Home party were at the outpost in a show of solidarity with the Amona residents.
“From this legal defeat we will establish a new legal regime in Judea and Samaria that will regulate the entirety of settlements, and from the painful loss of this foothold in this mountain will emerge the State of Israel’s application of sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria,” said the education minister in the Knesset plenum.
Bennett maintained the government “turned over every stone” to salvage the outpost, lamenting that “unfortunately, the struggle for Amona was unsuccessful.” The residents of Amona are “heroes” and “pioneers,” he said.
“We lost the battle, but we are winning the war for the Land of Israel,” the minister told the Knesset plenum. “The residents of Amona, with their dedication and determination, are saving thousands of Jewish families from evacuation, and [it is due to their efforts that] thousands of new families will be settled in our land.”
The education minister was referring to the so-called Regulation Bill, which the Knesset was set to vote into law next Monday. The controversial legislation, which would legalize some 4,000 housing units built on privately owned Palestinian land, was advanced in response to the impending demolition of Amona, though a clause that would retroactively apply it to the outpost was later scrapped in coalition negotiations.
Earlier on Wednesday, ahead of the outpost’s razing, the government approved 3,000 more settlement homes.
“From this hard day, hope will flourish,” he said. “From the ruins of Amona, we will build a new settlement. From the destroyed kindergartens will be established new kindergartens all across Judea and Samaria.”
The minister also urged nonviolence during the demolition.
“Under no circumstances or conditions may one lift a hand against a soldier, a policeman, or a civilian,” he said.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he expects the police to bring to justice anyone who acts violently.
“Despite the difficulty and the pain, I call on everyone who is still on the mountain – let the police do their job,” he said in the statement, adding that he also calls on Knesset members and public leaders to avoid statements that could “exacerbate the situation.”
Threats of clashes hung heavily over the evacuation as supporters of Amona set up makeshift roadblocks and other defenses intended to keep the army from advancing on the outpost, which was the scene of a violent melee during a 2006 partial evacuation.
Police were talking to the outpost residents in an effort to avoid a violent confrontation.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau also called on Amona residents and those who have joined them to refrain from violence against security forces.
“Evacuating a settlement and those living there arouses pain and sadness but we have an obligation to respect the law and not to use any violence towards anyone,” he said.
“Everyone should act in accordance to Jewish law.”
On Tuesday residents were given eviction notices, warning them to be out of their homes within 48 hours. The order allowed residents to file a new appeal to the IDF for a further 48-hour extension. However, police began the evacuations a day later
After over a decade of delays and legal wrangling, the High Court ruled in December 2014 that Amona, which lies east of Ramallah, was built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished. Nine homes in the adjacent Ofra settlement were also due to be demolished.
The eviction came ahead of the final February 8 deadline to demolish the outpost.
Ahead of the evacuation, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the bill to legalize West Bank outposts “will prevent disgraceful events like this in the future.”
“The Amona evacuation is a difficult moment because the term ‘the rule of law’ today becomes an empty phrase,” she says in a statement.
“I call on the settlers who fought valiantly for the outpost bill to continue to be pioneers for the Land of Israel,” she added.
Raphael Ahren, Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.