Ministerial panel delays vote on ‘unconstitutional’ Amona bill
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Ministerial panel delays vote on ‘unconstitutional’ Amona bill

AG said to urge lawmakers to drop legislation aiming to authorize illegal West Bank outposts

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Ministers Office in Jerusalem, October 30, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Ministers Office in Jerusalem, October 30, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday announced a week’s postponement for a vote on a controversial bill to recognize the Amona settlement outpost and other illegal structures in the West Bank.

The legislation, proposed by Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, was previously deemed unconstitutional by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. According to the Ynet news website, Sunday’s delay came after Mandelblit asked the committee to reject a vote on the legislation.

The postponement was announced after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with coalition leaders as well as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who had intended to bring the bill to the committee for a vote.

Earlier Sunday, a Likud minister told Army Radio that if a consensus on deferring the vote was not reached, Netanyahu’s cabinet would back the controversial legislation that would prevent the court-ordered evacuation of Amona by the end of the year.

View of a street and caravan homes at the Amona Jewish outpost in the West Bank, on July 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
View of a street and caravan homes at the Amona Jewish outpost in the West Bank, on July 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Meanwhile, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud), a member of the committee, announced Sunday she would support the bill, even as the deputy attorney general also warned ministers that the legislation was problematic.

Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht told the ministerial panel the proposed legislation would be indefensible in the High Court of Justice.

Following the meeting with the prime minister, Shaked returned to the ministerial committee and implemented a delay of a week for the vote.

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 and it is feared 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.

As a result of the court ruling, various alternatives have been raised by politicians, including Moaelem-Refaeli’s so-called regulation bill, which proposes the Palestinian owners whose lands have been appropriated for settlements or outposts receive alternate plots of land in the West Bank, in addition to financial compensation amounting to 50 percent of the land’s value.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a Constitution, Law, and Justice, Committee meeting in the Knesset, July 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a Constitution, Law, and Justice, Committee meeting in the Knesset, July 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The bill was shelved in July after Mandelblit argued it was “unconstitutional.” A similar law to recognize outposts was knocked down in its preliminary reading in the Knesset in 2012, after Netanyahu opposed it and threatened to fire any minister or deputy minister who voted in favor.

Nonetheless, the bill was given new life last month with a petition signed by 25 of the 30 Likud Knesset members, including top ministers, backing it. Over the weekend, Bennett announced that Shaked would bring it to a Ministerial Committee of Legislation vote, which if passed, would secure coalition backing for the legislation.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister’s Office announced an agreement between the prime minister, the justice and defense ministers and the attorney general, to request a six-month stay in the High Court decision to dismantle the illegal settlement.

Other alternatives proposed by the government to the Amona evacuation have included the replication of the outpost on nearby plots whose owners are not known.

The Israeli government also approved the construction of nearly 100 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh to compensate homeowners of Amona, drawing a furious response from Washington.

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