Twenty-five of the 30 lawmakers from Likud called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend to advance a bill to legalize West Bank outposts, ignoring the position of the attorney general and — very likely — international law.
The Knesset members, including nine cabinet ministers, signed a petition which calls for legislation to prevent the Supreme Court-ordered evacuation of the Amona outpost in the central West Bank.
This, despite the fact that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in July deemed the bill “unconstitutional” and said it would likely be shot down by the court.
“Ministers, deputy ministers and MKs from the Likud faction support the ‘resolution’ bill that is intended to legally authorize the homes of residents in…all of Judea and Samaria, and to prevent the moral, human and social injustice that would be created by the evacuation of hundreds and thousands of families who built their homes with the support and aid of Israeli governments,” the petition said, according to Channel 2 News.
“We will work to advance this important and moral legislation,” it added.
The proposed legislation would grant the Palestinian landowners of the property on which Amona was built with equivalent plots in the West Bank and reimburse 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 had shelved the bill in July after receiving Mandelblit’s position on the matter.
But sources in the party threatened on Saturday that they planned to push the matter “to the very end,” and told Channel 2 that a refusal by Netanyahu to push the bill forward could lead to a coalition crisis.
Under the Supreme Court order, the government must tear down the outpost of 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.
Amona 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, by Likud MK Yoav Kisch, was designed to override the ruling and keep Amona — and various other unrecognized outposts — intact.
“This law comes to rectify a double injustice — the injustice of thousands of families, residents of a number of settlements in Judea and Samaria, who were mostly sent to found and live there with the knowledge, encouragement and funding of the authorities, the Israeli government and other institutions. And the injustice of the owners of the lands on which the houses of those families or their descendants were built, who are eligible for compensation for their properties and have yet to receive it,” wrote Kisch in the proposal’s explanatory text.
“The majority of settlements were established with the encouragement of Israeli governments and their funding, and most of the residents that made their homes there did so innocently, and were unaware they built them on private land,” it said. “In some cases, the government authorities that were involved in building there were not aware that the properties were privately owned land.”
Marissa Newman and AP contributed to this report.