Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett on Wednesday attempted to calm his followers’ fears regarding the imminent uprooting of the community of Amona in Benjamin Region, in a private recording distributed to activists over WhatsApp. Bennett stressed that he and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have been trying to come up with a global, strategic solution that would remove the current threat hovering over thousands of housing units which are facing the same predicament as Amona. So far, attempts to introduce a legal mechanism that would offer fair market value to new Arab claimants against Jewish Homeowners across Judea and Samaria have been rejected by the court.
The left has been outright hostile to the idea, among other things because leftwing NGOs like Peace Now have based their very existence on seeking out potential Arab claimants to contest legal transactions between other Arab owners and the Jewish buyers. A fair market value solution would satisfy both the Arab claimants and the Jewish homeowners, but would leave many NGO agents without employment.
On Tuesday, Kipa published a letter from the residents of Amona, accusing the rightwing members of government, especially Bennett and Shaked, of a lackadaisical approach to Amona’s impending doom (a term actually used, in paraphrased form, by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman).
In the recording, obtained by Kipa, Bennett tells Habayit Hayehudi activists that he and Shaked “have decided to use a strategic solution and to stop gong after local solutions the way did in Amona and in Gush Etzion.” He continued: “Right now Ayelet and I are laboring very seriously over a single, large-scale strategic move which would solve all our problems.”
Bennett suggested several options, including the application of the Edmund Levy committee report which recommended imposing Israeli law on Area C of Judea and Samaria. “It might be a change in the government’s decision, it could also be the arrangement law,” Bennett said, referring to a bill being promoted by coalition MKs that compels Arab claimants to accept fair market value for their claims—a bill that was rejected four years ago by Prime Minister Netanyahu. But no matter which solution they choose, it’s going to go into effect within the next few weeks, Bennett promised in the recording.
Bennett blamed on previous Netanyahu governments the current mess in Amona, where as many as 17 homes have been slated for demolition by the Supreme Court, in a community that was designed and supported by the State. He voiced his support for an outline suggested by the Amona residents, known as the Absentee Property outline. Absentee property was the way the State of Israel in the past dealt with thousands of properties that had been left behind by Arabs who fled to Jordan and Egypt during the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence. “After much resistance we have been able to pass the outline in the government, but we don’t yet have a complete guarantee that it would pass.”
As usual, the one possible deciding vote to kill a market value bill or a realignment of Amona, in a government with a decisive, pro-settlements majority, is the man at the helm, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who probably does not relish a new battle with the Administration during the lame duck season.
Justice Minister Shaked on Wednesday told Army Radio that the Amona residents share in the blame for their current emergency, since a year ago the Defense Ministry had offered them an alternative settlement near Shilo, and they refused. She acknowledged, however, the validity of their absentee property solution and promised to pursue it in the cabinet.
As of Saturday night, 25 Likud MKs have signed a petition calling on the Netanyahu government to pursue legislation to prevent the demolition and evacuation of Amona, an Israeli outpost in central Judea and Samaria. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Amona community is illegal under Israeli law, but its status remained unresolved as the government continued to fight the court’s eviction order. In December 2014, the court ordered the state to completely evacuate and demolish the settlement within two years.
Likud MKs petition to save Amona
Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Court ruling was unequivocal, and there was no hope to keep Amona intact. “There is no way that Amona can be left as it is built today, because most of the houses are built on private Palestinian land,” Liberman told an audience in Ariel University. But he added that “all the rules that apply to Amona apply to every other place as well,” suggesting that leftwing MKs and NGOs, as well as the EU and the US government, are only interested in removing Jews from their homes, “but when it comes to enforcing rulings against other trespassers everyone stands up on their hind legs.”
The court has ordered the final date for the evacuation of the entire outpost to be no later than December 25 this year.
MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) has submitted a bill dubbed the “Arrangement Law,” suggesting that homes that have been constructed using government supports would not be demolished should the claimants be able to show prior ownership. Instead, the land of the community in question would be confiscated by the State and the claimants would receive fair market value. This moves the burden of proof from the Jewish residents to the Arab claimants.
The signatories on the current petition include the vast majority of the Likud Knesset faction, including a few sworn enemies of the PM, such as Transport Minister Yisrael Katz and MK Oren Hazan. But since the entire Likud list is only 30 members strong, there are also many Netanyahu supporters who would like to see Amona spared.
Back in 2012 Netanyahu torpedoed a similar bill, submitted by Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), which attempted to save the community of Migron, north of Jerusalem. Netanyahu employed the coalition discipline, which killed the bill with a 69 to 22 vote. The same bill came up during the Knesset summer session, but the ministerial legislative committee decided to kill it.
The legal community opposes the idea, and AG Avihai Madelblit is on the record as saying such a law would be unconstitutional (a strange phrase in a country without a constitution), and is sure to be killed by the Supreme Court. He prefers instead purchasing land nearby and transporting the entire community over, at an enormous cost. Why not purchase the land and give it to the claimant? Why not lease the land from the claimant? Why not offer the claimant an opportunity to sell the land to the community? Apparently, all those ideas have not risen to the same constitutional validity as that of destroying a Jewish community.
In preparations for Eid al-Adha, marking the Quran’s version of the Torah story of the Binding of Isaac, which this year falls on Sept. 11 (as well as on the 10th and the 12th, depending on local moon spotting), the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Gen. Yoav Mordechai announced a long list of accommodations to be made by his unit to facilitate observing the festival in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.
The accommodations below have all been approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), in the spirit of facilitating a life of religion and worship. This is particularly magnanimous, considering the fact that Eid al-Adha is a deceptive attempt to replace the story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, which follows the story of the expulsion of the maidservant Hagar and her son Ishmael to the desert, with a revision which places Ishmael, father of the Arabs, on that altar on the Temple Mount.
1. Israel will coordinate 10,000 Arab family visits in Judea and Samaria
2. Israel will allow prayer of married men who are younger than 45, and women age 30 and up, for two festival days.
3. Israel will coordinate an increased number of flights via Ben Gurion International Airport for Judea and Samaria Arabs.
4. Israel will coordinate an increased number of visits of Arabs from abroad in Judea and Samaria.
5. Israel will coordinate permits for prayer on Temple Mount for Gaza Strip Arabs ages 60 and up.
6. Israel will coordinate family visits abroad for Gaza Strip families crossing Allenby Bridge into Jordan.
In addition, the Judea and Samaria border crossings will remain open longer and goods will be permitted to pass as late as 7 PM.
It should be noted that every one of the above easing of the regulations on behalf of the Arab civilian population in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza involves a nightmare of security operations, because Hamas, the PLO and all the other terrorist outfits in those enclaves are expected to take advantage of these softer rules and use the lull to push terror attacks as well as riots. In effect, the Israeli security forces will be doubling their efforts over this short period of time, to block potential attacks.
Gen. Mordechai informed PA senior officials and international organizations of the special festival efforts.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is set to meet Tuesday in London with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, although the agenda has not been made public.
Defense Ministry officials said the two men will discuss “a series of matters” but revealed nothing else.
Liberman met with Carter at the Pentagon on June 20, when the two “reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Israeli defense relationship and the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Carter and Liberman also discussed regional security challenges in the Middle East and “areas of mutual defense cooperation,” according to the statement.
Liberman also attended the Lockheed Martin roll out ceremony for the F-35 fighter planes purchased by the Israeli air force — the first of which is expected to arrive in Israel in December. The defense minister also toured an Elbit Systems plant and met in New York with the defense ministry purchasing delegation.
While in London, Liberman is also set to meet with UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon following his talks with Carter.