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Bennett implores PM to prevent destruction of Amona farmland

Leader of pro-settler party wants Netanyahu to make agricultual plots off limits; defense minister declines to intervene

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett attends an Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett attends an Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, on Wednesday implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent Amona’s agricultural plots from being destroyed, as the court-ordered evacuation and demolition of the illegal West Bank outpost got underway.

Bennett appealed to the prime minister as thousands of police officers worked to demolish the West Bank outpost in line with a 2014 court order that ruled the Jewish community was built on privately owned Palestinian land, and must be destroyed.

Bennett, however, claimed the demolition order from the High Court of Justice did not include the adjacent agricultural lands belonging to the Amona residents, and said it was “unnecessary and cruel” to destroy their farmland in addition to evicting them from their homes.

He urged Netanyahu to instruct Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to order security forces to stay away from Amona’s agricultural lands.

In response, Defense Ministry officials said Liberman had not ordered the lands destroyed, and would not get involved in the operation.

An Israeli settler holds a flag with with "Amona, we will return" written on it at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017, ahead of its evacuation. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
An Israeli settler holds a flag that reads “Amona, we will return” written on it at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017, ahead of its evacuation. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

According to Israel Radio, Amona residents appealed to the IDF’s legal adviser for Judea and Samaria against the destruction of their farmlands.

Reports say the issue will likely be resolved in the High Court at a later date.

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.

On Wednesday, police were ordered to evacuate the outpost of 40 families.

Some 3,000 officers were dispatched to Amona, and roads leading to the outpost were blocked in a bid to keep supporters seeking to thwart the eviction order from reaching the hilltop.

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.

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