Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor on Tuesday night rejected a last minute petition from a group of Amona residents to postpone the community’s evacuation until after the court rules on an appeal against the government’s resettling plan, Israel Radio reported.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to debate on Wednesday an appeal by local Arabs and the anti-Israeli NGO Yesh Din, which is funded by European nations and church organizations, against a government plan to provide housing for the evacuated Jews on nearby land. The government promised the Amona residents a resettlement plan as part of their peaceful acceptance of their expulsion from the place where dozens of their children have been born.
Amona is getting ready for today’s evacuation, well in advance of the February 8 court-set deadline. Following a notice the IDF command posted around the community, security forces have circled the community to prevent the entry of protesters. But, as they always do, hundreds of national-religious youths have managed to sneak through and are barricading the entrance to Amona as well as internal roads.
Overnight and in the early morning some 3,000 Police, IDF and Border Guard arrived at the community’s gates and fence, as part of “Operation Locked Garden 2” (the title is borrowed from King Solomon’s Song of Songs 4:12 – “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”). For the sake of context: the original Operation Locked Garden took place in August, 2006, against PLO terrorist forces in the Sg’aaih neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip. Four Arabs were killed.
A few residents have already begun to leave the community, along with their children. According to the security forces on the ground, the expectation is for a mostly peaceful evacuation, as per the agreement between the residents and the Netanyahu government, and as per the Netanyahu government’s promise to the Supreme Court.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), the man who probably has labored more than any other politician to try and spare Amona, was on hand Wednesday, to share his sorrow about the coalition’s failure – at least one partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu faction, refused to make retroactive the new “regulation act” of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, which is being debated at the Knesset right now and has a good chance to pass. As a result, the operation is likely to be successful, but the patient – Amona – over whose fate this entire effort had been done, will expire.
Smotrich compared his pain to what he imagined a woman being raped must feel. He compared the eviction to a brutal rape. With tears in his eyes, Smotrich assured residents that his party “did everything to prevent this. Leaving the government would not have helped.”
Smotrich was probably right, but an unexpected foe, MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who also showed up Wednesday morning, used this opportunity to make hay while the sun shines. “You promised the people here they won’t be getting off this mountain, not everything is slogans.” Then Hazan added, “You should learn from Trump about leadership.” It was unclear what Trump-like move would have done the trick in this case, perhaps tweet-shaming Minister Kahlon into submission?
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) was also on hand, and served as a useful punching bag for the residents. If Ariel had arrived to try and mend the rift between his party, arguably the most pro-settler in the Knesset today, and its voters in Amona, it was probably too soon. All he received were torrents of insults from broken hearts about how his government prefers Bedouins over Jews and Palestinians over Israelis. It was unfair, but one does not go to a funeral to seek out balanced opinions. On Wednesday, Amona was mostly about pain and loss.