Coalition whip says outpost legalization bill can’t save Amona

As contested Regulation Bill clears first legislative hurdle, David Bitan says West Bank outpost will be razed as per the court order

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Coalition chairman David Bitan during a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on July 11, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Coalition chairman David Bitan during a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on July 11, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Coalition chairman David Bitan on Wednesday admitted that legislation would not save the Amona outpost from its court-ordered demolition, as various proposals to recognize illegal West Bank construction cleared the first legislative hurdle in the Knesset.

The Likud MK also said the proposals had “basically zero, or very slim” chances of becoming law.

“Israel is a country that upholds its laws, and since there is ruling in this case, unfortunately the Regulation Bill won’t help Amona, and it will be demolished,” Bitan told Army Radio.

“I’ll say this clearly, even if the Regulation Bill — which does pose a problem from a legal perspective — does pass, it will of course not be applicable retroactively,” Bitan said.

The Israeli government was seeking alternate plans to preserve the outpost, he also said, without elaborating.

“This law is very important, but we are going to try to solve the issue in a different way, that way we won’t need the Regulation Bill,” Bitan told the radio station. “We’re looking for a solution that won’t be problematic in the eyes of the High Court or the international community,” he said. “But if we have no choice, we’ll legislate it [the Regulation Bill].”

The bill, proposed by lawmakers in the nationalist-Orthodox Jewish Home party and the Likud, was being presented as a plan to avert the court-ordered demolition of the Amona outpost, which the High Court of Justice determined was built on privately owned Palestinian land. The outpost is set to be demolished by December 25.

Right-wing lawmakers have been seeking a legal loophole to prevent an evacuation with a bill that would formally recognize West Bank outposts. But their legislation was previously deemed unconstitutional and a likely violation of international law by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who told the government there may not be legal grounds on which to defend it when it faces an all-but-certain appeal to the High Court.

The West Bank outpost of Amona (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of the West Bank outpost of Amona (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Amona has put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a complicated position. On the one hand, the impending evacuation threatens to destabilize his coalition, which relies heavily on the pro-settlement right.

However, Mandelblit has consistently warned that legislation to outflank a High Court ruling would be unconstitutional and contravene international treaties to which Israel is a signatory.

The Amona outpost, founded in 1995 on a hill near Ramallah in the central West Bank, is home to about 40 families. It is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts — built without permission but generally tolerated by the government — that dot the West Bank.

A partial evacuation a decade ago sparked violent clashes between residents and security forces and it is feared a new evacuation could trigger another showdown.

On Monday, the High Court of Justice rejected a request by the government to postpone Amona’s demolition and evacuation.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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