Palestinians, NGOs file objection that could delay new settlement
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Palestinians, NGOs file objection that could delay new settlement

Civil Administration petitioned over claim that Amichai, being built for Amona evacuees, will harm neighboring villages

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Construction workers begin work on the new settlement, Amichai, meant to resettle the evacuees of Amona, June 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Construction workers begin work on the new settlement, Amichai, meant to resettle the evacuees of Amona, June 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A group of Palestinians landowners, village heads, and Israeli rights NGOs filed an objection Sunday seeking to halt construction of a new settlement being built to house evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost.

The objection submitted to the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration claims that establishing the Amichai settlement — the first new Israeli community in the West Bank in 25 years — will harm the lives of Palestinians living and working land nearby.

Even if not fully accepted, the petition could delay the new settlement for months until the Civil Administration, which authorizes Israeli construction in the West Bank, responds to the concerns of the petitioners and possibly recommends changes to the building plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has worked to speed up the establishment of the new settlement — breaking ground for construction of roads and infrastructure before final permits were issued by the Civil Administration.

In their objection, the petitioners — 13 Palestinian landowners, three village heads and the Israeli rights organizations Bimkom and Haqel — say that the establishment of the settlement will harm Palestinians living in the surrounding villages, who they argue will be prevented from accessing their land.

Bimkom’s Alon Cohen-Lifshitz told The Times of Israel that “there was no legitimacy to establish the settlement.”

“They rushed through the entire process without gaining the necessary permits,” he said Monday.

Cohen-Lifshitz pointed out that in several past occasions, the army has demolished the illegal outpost of Geulat Zion, which radical settlers have attempted to establish on the same hilltop where Amichai is currently being built.

A bulldozer demolishing a structure in the wildcat Geulat Zion outpost in the West Bank, in October 2013. (screen capture: YouTube)
A bulldozer demolishing a structure in the wildcat Geulat Zion outpost in the West Bank, in October 2013. (screen capture: YouTube)

“We didn’t even file petitions against the outpost. The Defense Ministry simply understood that it was illegal and acted. But now they want to establish a settlement in that same problematic area,” he asked.

Quamar Mishirqi Assad, the legal representative for the group of Palestinians added that, from the standpoint of her clients, “injustice has replaced injustice. At the end of the day, Palestinians always pay the price for internal Israeli wars,” she said.

The new settlement — which will be located near the settlements of Shiloh and Eli, north of Ramallah — will be the first of its kind to be constructed since the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993.

Earlier this month, the government doubled the budget of Amichai. Housing Minister Yoav Galant announced during an August 2 cabinet meeting that the budget for the new settlement would be increased from NIS 60 million ($18 million) to NIS 120 million ($36 million).

The settlement is expected to initially house dozens of pre-fab caravan homes, which require land to be cleared and infrastructure laid.

Amona evacuees currently living in dormitory-style housing in the nearby settlement of Ofra are expected to place considerable pressure on Netanyahu’s government for construction to continue apace.

Amona evicted residents Tamar and Yehudia Nizri pose for a photo with their children in their room of temporary residence in the settlement of Ofra, on February 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Amona evicted residents Tamar and Yehudia Nizri pose for a photo with their children in their room of temporary residence in the settlement of Ofra, on February 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Speaking with The Times of Israel Monday, Amona representative Avichai Boaron said he “still hopes to be able to move [to Amichai] in two to three months.”

Future Amichai residents argue that the new settlement will sit entirely on state land, contrary to that of their previous outpost.

Amona representative Avichai Boaron speaks at a press conference at a protest tent near the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem on March 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Amona representative Avichai Boaron speaks at a press conference at a protest tent near the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on March 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Amona outpost was evacuated in February after the High Court of Justice ruled that it had been built on private Palestinian land.

Boaron characterized the objection as “spiteful,” saying it had been submitted by “another extreme leftist organization that ostensibly cares about human rights, but does not care about the rights of the evacuees, who have been living in substandard conditions for seven months after being expelled from their homes.”

The Civil Administration said it could not comment on ongoing cases and would issue a response in the future.

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