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Jewish Home ministers give up on bill to stop outpost demolition

Bennett and Shaked say MKs will instead push other legislation to allow Amona residents to rebuild homes nearby

A mobile home in the outpost of Amona. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
A mobile home in the outpost of Amona. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

A law meant to stave off the demolition of an illegal Israeli outpost in the West Bank has no chance of passing the Knesset, two ministers who were among the driving force behind the legislation admitted Sunday.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both from the right-wing Jewish Home party, told Channel 10 television that the bill would not be able to prevent the evacuation and demolition of the Amona outpost in the central West Bank, which was ordered by the Supreme Court.

Instead, the lawmakers will push through another legislative measure meant to allow residents of Amona to rebuild nearby, the report said.

Over the weekend, 25 of Likud’s 30 lawmakers called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance a bill to legalize West Bank outposts, ignoring the position of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and that of an international community opposed to settlements in general.

The Knesset members, including nine cabinet ministers, also signed a petition calling for legislation to prevent the evacuation of Amona.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, left, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrive at the first cabinet meeting of the Israel's 34th government at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, left, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrive at the first cabinet meeting of the Israel’s 34th government at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In July, Mandelblit deemed the bill on Amona “unconstitutional” and warned it would likely be shot down by the Supreme Court.

The proposed legislation would have granted compensation to the Palestinian owners of the land on which Amona was built, giving them equivalent plots elsewhere in the West Bank as well as reimbursing them with 50 percent of the land’s value.

Channel 2 noted that such legislation would likely defy international law, bringing Israel into direct and open confrontation with the global community over the outposts and possibly the settlement enterprise as a whole.

Ministers shelved the bill in July after receiving Mandelblit’s position on the matter. But sources in the ruling party threatened Saturday to push the matter “to the very end,” telling Channel 2 that any refusal by Netanyahu to advance the bill could trigger a coalition crisis.

The Supreme Court said the government must tear down Amona by the end of the year — a move expected to face staunch opposition from within the coalition and pit security forces against the wishes of leading members of the cabinet.

Police clashing with settlers and protesters at the Amona outpost in 2006. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir, Flash90)
Police clashing with settlers and protesters at the Amona outpost in 2006. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Amona, founded in 1995 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. A new evacuation could trigger another showdown.

In 2008, a group of Palestinians, represented by the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, petitioned the Supreme Court, claiming Amona settlers had encroached on their land and demanding the entire outpost be dismantled. The court petition set off a protracted legal battle that saw a number of proposed evacuation dates missed and repeatedly delayed until a final ruling in 2014 ordered the state to demolish the outpost by December 25, 2016. The state also agreed to compensate the landowners with about $75,000.

The bill, proposed by Likud MK Yoav Kisch, was designed to override the ruling and keep Amona — and various other unrecognized outposts — intact.

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