High Court halts work on Amona outpost compromise
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High Court halts work on Amona outpost compromise

Ruling comes after Palestinian landowners' file petition, and top official says deal with residents in doubt because of legal complications

View of caravan houses in the illegal outpost of Amona on January 16, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
View of caravan houses in the illegal outpost of Amona on January 16, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice on Monday issued a temporary injunction halting work to prepare a new location for the Amona outpost in the West Bank, complicating government efforts to find a solution for the settlers and avoid a possible violent standoff.

Amona is scheduled for court-ordered removal by a February 8 deadline and, in a deal struck last month with the government, the residents agreed to move to an adjacent plot. The injunction prevents preparation of the new site until a further decision is taken, but does not halt the removal of the existing outpost.

The petition, filed by human rights group Yesh Din, objected to a government plan to divide certain plots, which supposedly had no present claimant, and called for the deal to be canceled.

“Ever since the notion of using abandoned property was suggested, we have claimed that one injustice cannot be corrected with another, and that additional land cannot be taken over just to appease Amona residents,” Yesh Din executive director Neta Patrick said in a statement.

The deal had apparently run into trouble even before the court ruling, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz reportedly telling ministers from his Likud party on Sunday that the agreement with Amona residents could not be implemented because of legal complications.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)

The lack of a clear solution has once again raised the possibility of a forced evacuation of the Amona settlers and fears that violence could result.

Settlers in the Amona outpost of some 40 families, which was built on Palestinian land, accused the government Monday of not living up to the terms of the deal reached in December that would see them voluntarily moved nearby.

“Right now we’re dealing with the fact that the government and officials lied,” said Eli Greenberg, an Amona resident and spokesman for the outpost.

“They promised all kinds of lies to us.”

Leader of the Campaign for Amona organization Avichai Baron said in an interview with the Hebrew-language Ynet website that the outpost residents had been cheated by the government.

“You led us astray, and swindled us,” he complained. “The agreement said that alternative homes are to be built for the families. That didn’t happen and it isn’t starting to happen. We don’t intend to keep to the agreement of voluntary evacuation since you didn’t keep to the agreement. Deals need to be honored.”

The Defense Ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank did not respond to a request for comment.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2017.(Alex Kolomoisky/ POOL)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2017.(Alex Kolomoisky/ POOL)

The long-running saga has centered on a 2014 high court ruling ordering the outpost northeast of the town of Ramallah to be evacuated because it was built on private Palestinian land.

An initial deadline of December 25, 2016 was given for the outpost to be removed.

Hundreds of hardline Jewish youths also flooded into the outpost in a bid to prevent the evacuation.But with the deadline approaching, Israeli right-wing politicians rushed to Amona’s defense while also promoting a bill to legalize thousands of other settler homes in the West Bank.

Negotiations resulted in a deal on December 18, under which Amona residents agreed to relocate peacefully to nearby land considered abandoned.

The court then granted an extension of the deadline to February 8 when the settlers promised to relocate peacefully.

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