State set to request delay of Amona evacuation
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State set to request delay of Amona evacuation

Despite two-year notice given by court, PM says more time needed to prepare housing for residents set to be evacuated by Dec. 25

Jewish residents of the unauthorized Israeli outpost of Amona, in the West Bank, seen walking on the streets of the settlement on November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish residents of the unauthorized Israeli outpost of Amona, in the West Bank, seen walking on the streets of the settlement on November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Attorneys for the government are expected on Sunday to ask the High Court of Justice for a one-month delay in the evacuation of the Amona outpost in the central West Bank, Israel Radio reported.

The case has come before the High Court repeatedly over the past 15 years. In December 2014, after multiple appeals and delays, the court ordered that the outpost be evacuated within two years, or no later than December 25 of this year. It has already rejected a petition to postpone the dismantling of the settlement, which was built on privately-owned Palestinian land, by eight months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that a delay of the evacuation is needed to prepare temporary housing solutions for some 40 families that will be removed from their homes in the demolition.

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers took part in a training exercise this week at an IDF base in southern Israel ahead of the evacuation. The training was conducted at the Tze’elim base in the Negev Desert. Simulations of various scenarios included the forcible evacuation of people passively resisting, as well violent reactions, according to a report on Israel’s Channel 2 News on Thursday.

The troops and officers also trained for a possible need to cordon off the illegal outpost to secure the evacuation, which is expected to take place before or on December 25.

A number of senior police officers, including Commissioner Roni Alsheich, visited the base this week to observe the training.

On Thursday, supporters of Amona sent an email urging people from all over the country to come to the outpost to help stand in the way of its evacuation.

The email suggested the evacuation would take place this Saturday evening, December 11, two weeks ahead of the date set by the High Court. It included an invitation with instructions [Hebrew] to bring warm clothes, a sleeping bag, a tent, toilet paper, a camera and food.

Earlier Thursday, dozens of Amona residents held a protest at the High Court in Jerusalem against the ruling, shouting, “End the High Court’s dictatorship!”

“We can’t accept the fact that a group of people who represent maybe a tiny percentage of the Israeli population will impose its will on the public,” said Uri Kirshenbaum, a representative of the group “Derech Haim,” which organized the protest in protest at the High Court’s ruling. “Today it’s Amona residents [who are being forced to evacuate]… tomorrow it could be anyone else.”

Late Wednesday, Israeli lawmakers approved the first reading of the controversial Regulation Bill in a late-night vote that followed a five-hour Knesset debate. The vote was another step toward legalizing thousands of settler homes in a similar situation — they were built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. The bill was originally intended to avert the court-ordered demolition of Amona itself, but resistance from some coalition lawmakers to countermanding a direct ruling of the High Court led to an exception in the bill for any settlements that already have a court order set against them.

Young Jewish men seen building a structure in the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, on November 28, 2016. The structure is meant to house supporters for when the state decides to evacuate the illegal settlement. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Young Jewish men seen building a structure in the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, on November 28, 2016. The structure is meant to house supporters for when the state decides to evacuate the illegal settlement. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The legislation — slammed by the US, the EU and the UN as a breach of international law — stipulates that settlement construction in the West Bank that was carried out in good faith, without the knowledge that the land was privately owned, would be recognized by the government provided the settlers could show some kind of state support in establishing themselves at the site — which in some cases could be as minimal as having access to public infrastructures.

Under the bill, the government will be able to appropriate land for its own use if the owners are not known. If the owners are known, they will be eligible for either yearly damages amounting to 125 percent of the value of leasing the land, a larger financial package valued at 20 years’ worth of leasing the plots, or alternate plots.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has warned that the bill breaches both local and international law, and indicated that the High Court is likely to strike it down. Some officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who voted for the bill along with all but one member of his coalition — have warned that the law could see Israeli officials prosecuted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The bill is expected to pass its final Knesset votes by December 14.

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