search

Vowing Amona won’t fall, activists rage against the seemingly inevitable

Calling High Court ‘criminal’ and dismissing any negotiations, settler leaders and outpost’s backers rally in Jerusalem against impending demolition

Right wing activists protest in Jerusalem against the planned evacuation of Amona on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Right wing activists protest in Jerusalem against the planned evacuation of Amona on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A teenager in long sidelocks wound his way through the crowd outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem handing out “Kahane was right” stickers Tuesday night, but he found few takers.

Almost everyone already had them.

Wearing slogans exhorting the late extremist rabbi and carrying signs vowing that the Amona outpost “will not fall again,” some 1,000 right-wing activists rallied in central Jerusalem against the impending evacuation of the outpost, currently slated for later this month.

“Amona will remain in Amona and will not fall,” Avichai Boaron, the head of the campaign to save the outpost, told the crowd to loud cheers.

With a stiff wind but little of a promised rainstorm, the mostly young crowd raged against plans to raze the outpost and move the 40 families settled on the hilltop in the central West Bank to another nearby plot of land.

The issue has rankled the government in recent months, with officials scrambling to come up with a solution that will leave the outpost residents and the settler community happy while also carrying out an order of the High Court, which found the outpost was built on private Palestinian land.

Young settlers play basketball in the illegal outpost of Amona on December 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Young settlers play basketball in the illegal outpost of Amona on December 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Amona is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts — erected without permission but generally tolerated by the government — that dot the West Bank. 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, for eight months.

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thousands of miles away from the crowds on a state visit to Azerbaijan and Khazakstan, the crowd saved most of its opprobrium for the High Court.

“They are the biggest criminals of all,” said Matti Barnea, wearing a bright orange shirt saying that he is a “settler from Givatayim,” a Tel Aviv suburb.

“This is our home, you have to fight for your home,” he said, dismissing the ruling that the land belongs to Palestinians or even the very idea of Arabs owning land in any of Israel.

Jerusalemite Ron Hoffman, carrying a white “Make America Great Again” hat in one hand and a large pole with an Israeli flag on the other, accused the High Court of “destroying the country.”

“I hope the rally will help to convince the government not to move Amona a few meters,” he said, standing on a street littered with flyers calling for an end to the High Court’s “dictatorship.”

Amid jitters that the outpost evacuation could be met with violence, a repeat of a 2006 operation to raze nine homes in the outpost that led to large-scale clashes between settlers and security forces, police were deployed heavily around the rally.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were 150 police securing the event, and that there had been no violence, though he left open the possibility for incidents once the rally ended.

“There hasn’t been any problem so far. Hopefully there won’t be, but we’ll see,” he said.

While speakers vowed that the outpost would not be evacuated, touting it as a microcosm for the whole settlement enterprise, few made explicit mention of plans to resist the operation, including pleas by Amona residents in recent weeks for others to come defend the outpost.

“We hope there won’t be an evacuation, but if there is, we ask you to be with us,” Boaron said. “You are our strength.”

At the same time, settler leaders were resolute in their opposition to any plans to move Amona at all, a day after Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that he had reached a compromise with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the settlers to move to a plot of land adjacent to the outpost’s current location.

Right wing activists protest in Jerusalem against the planned evacuation of Amona on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Right wing activists protest in Jerusalem against the planned evacuation of Amona on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Any negotiation on Israel that talks about moving Jews will not happen,” said settlement leader Daniella Weiss.

“We will not give up any hilltop,” she added, casting doubt on government promises to allow them to build homes in a different location nearby.

Avishai Wasstertsug, a high school student from the town of Yad Binyamin in southern Israel, said he hoped the rally would show the government “the true voice of the people.”

Right now, Amona backers are staking any hopes that the state will petition the High Court to delay the evacuation by a month, if not permanently.

Attorneys for the state were expected to ask the High Court of Justice for the one-month delay, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly saying that such a delay was needed in order to prepare temporary housing solutions for the 40-odd families slated to be evicted during the demolition.

The latest efforts to prevent the evacuation come after the so-called Regulation Bill, which seeks to legalize settlements built on Palestinian land, passed a first reading in the Knesset last week without a clause that would also ensure recognition for Amona and effectively overturn the court ruling.

Speaking to a crowd thinned by cold drizzles, Rabbi Yair Frank, the spiritual leader of the outpost, cast himself and his neighbors as “the permanent residents,” living in houses and not the mobile home caravans that currently dot the hilltop near Ramallah.

“We are planted in the ground,” he said. “We are married to this hilltop.”

Raoul Wootliff and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed