Amona evacuees to move into first new West Bank settlement in 25 years

First 25 families to enter their homes in an official ceremony in Amichai on Monday, 14 months after illegal outpost was razed; remaining 17 families to arrive after Passover

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

The first caravan is placed on the grounds of the new Amichai settlement for evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost on February 21, 2018. (Courtesy: Amona evacuees)
The first caravan is placed on the grounds of the new Amichai settlement for evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost on February 21, 2018. (Courtesy: Amona evacuees)

Fourteen months after the illegal outpost of Amona was razed, its evacuees announced Sunday that they will be moving into their new homes in Amichai, the first newly constructed West Bank settlement in over 25 years.

Since February 2017, the outpost’s 42 families have been living in a dormitory in nearby Ofra.

While many have been slowly moving their belongings to the new Amichai settlement for the past several weeks, an official ceremony will be held on Monday marking the move-in day of the first 25 families. The remaining 17 families are slated to join them at the conclusion of the Passover holiday next month.

“After a long wait and a stubborn struggle – tomorrow it happens. Amichai residents enter their new community!” said Avichai Boaron, the head of Amona’s secretariat.

“We are looking forward to entering our new homes, which we were able to establish with the blood of our hearts, with determination and faith, love for the land and for Zionism,” he said.

Monday’s arrival comes eight months after the June ground-breaking of the new hilltop community in the central West Bank and one month after the first mobile homes were installed.

In the months following the residents’ move, construction of permanent homes is expected to begin, with the settlement’s master plan allowing for the construction of 102 houses. However, additional legal hurdles remain for roughly a third of those homes as Palestinians have petitioned the High Court claiming that the land on which the houses would be built belongs to them.

Despite considerable efforts, the Israeli government was unable to prevent the demolition of the illegal outpost in February, which the High Court ordered due to it having been built on private Palestinian land. However, less than a week after the evacuation, the Knesset passed the so-called “Regulation Law,” which allows the government to expropriate private Palestinian land where illegal outpost homes had been built ex-post facto, provided that they were “built in good faith” or had government support.

The legislation faces uphill legal trouble and was frozen by the High Court in August.

Amichai’s construction has drawn broad condemnation by much of the international community, which views the settlement as situated on land that the Palestinians hope will be part of their state.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog has consistently panned the government’s decision to establish the hilltop community, saying that “42 families, which the court ruled had stolen private land, are extorting the government, while funding for educational programs and pensions for the disabled are being neglected.”

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