Following a 9-hour meeting at the Prime Minister’s office overnight Sunday, which included a 4-hour discussion by PM Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, a new outline was submitted to the Amona community for a consenting evacuation – one week before the high court’s mandated date, and after the community had voted against an earlier proposed outline. Amona is expected to vote on the new outline by noon Sunday.
The new outline, according to Walla, was agreed on by Chairman of the Amona resistance Avihay Boaron, Amona Chief Rabbi Yair Frank, and Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who has been involved in the negotiation efforts over the past two weeks. Boaron and Frank have already presented the newest outline to their fellow residents.
In addition to the new outline, 24, rather than 12 families originally, would be allowed to remain on lot 38 near Amona. Should the residents accept the proposed outline, the government would petition the court for an extra 30 days and work on lot 38 would start.
In addition to the new outline, the Netanyahu cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday morning an additional proposal to establish temporary housing in Ofra for the remaining Amona residents as well as nine Ofra families, and provide approximately $10.5 milion in monetary compensation to the evacuees. The Finance Ministry will provide $2.33 million for infrastructure and public buildings in the temporary section; and the Defense Ministry will add $1 million for renting lodging and public buildings for the interim period, until the new section is ready. Regional Council Mateh Binyamin will receive $3.88 million for “special expenses” in the interim period.
A meeting Saturday night of the Amona community and hundreds of activists who had arrived to help stop the Dec. 25 evacuation was dedicated to the locals’ commitment to avoid at all cost any violent interaction with security forces.
Meanwhile, IDF soldiers have been adamant in expressing their objection to being used to evict Jews from their homes. According to Walla, on Saturday night fighters of the Tzabar battalion of the Givati Brigade left their post in protest and then returned to their routine duties.
The IDF Spokesman’s office released a statement condemning disobedience in its ranks and reassuring soldiers and the public that the first wave of attack in the evacuation of Amona will consist of police.
Thousands of Israelis gathered in Jerusalem Tuesday night to demonstrate against the impending evacuation of the Jewish community of Amona.
The demonstrators protested in Paris Square, across from the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on a state visit to eastern Europe. Netanyahu was not there, however: he spent the afternoon meeting with the president of Azerbaijan and was slated to visit the Chabad Or Avner Jewish Education Center in Baku as well.
Before leaving on his trip, Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett had already reached a legal solution on the issue of Amona that would allow the residents to remain in the community in their homes, but would require them to permit those homes to be moved to another location within the municipality boundaries.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had approved the plan, which would be implemented using impounded absentee landlord plots. It is not clear whether or not the residents had agreed to the plan.
Meanwhile, the IDF is still preparing to carry out the evacuation on the legal due date of December 25 if the deal falls through. Attorneys for the state were to request a delay from the Supreme Court in order to allow time to carry out the new plan, but it’s not clear whether that took place and if it did, whether the Court is willing to allow the delay for the new plan to be implemented in time.
A number of soldiers in IDF units and those of the Border Guard Police have already expressed their opposition to being ordered to forcibly pull Jews out of their homes, and have requested to be excused from that duty. Some have done so publicly via social media by posting hand-lettered signs which are photographed being held without their faces being shown; others have submitted their requests privately or anonymously via the media.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett on Monday reached a deal on a new outline for dismantling the Amona community in keeping with the Supreme Court ruling, and concurrently offering the residents an alternative location on the same mountain, using impounded absentee landlord plots. According to Israeli media reports, the plan, approved by AG Avichai Mandelblit, will be presented to the residents Monday night and, should they accept it, the government would petition the court for an extension past the Dec. 25 eviction date, to facilitate a trouble-free evacuation.
“Following many efforts with the Prime Minister and the AG, we managed to forge a good absentee landlord outline and achieved our goal of keeping Amona on the same mountain,” Bennett told a meeting of the Habayit Hayehudi Knesset faction. According to Bennett, the new outline provides a much longer time horizon and on a larger territory that can include all the families with room to spare for future expansion.
“I believe we’ll received the consent of the Amona residents for the move to the new area on Amona Hill using peaceful means, and with that we’ll be able to approach the Supreme Court with a request for an extension.”
Bennett added that “uprooting any community is wrong and we feel the pain of the residents; but in the current conditions we succeeded in keeping the residents of Amona on the mountain as well as achieved the strategic Regulation Act last week.”
The new bill, which passed the Knesset vote in its preliminary reading, will compel Arab claimants against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to accept monetary or land compensation but not the already inhabited land.
Meanwhile, the security apparatus has been preparing for the evacuation of Amona on the due date. According to Honenu, the senior IDF Commander of the Central Command, Gen. Nitzan Alon, is planning to issue dozens of administrative detention orders against Jewish activists, to prevent them from reaching Amona to protest and prevent the evacuation, should the new deal fall through.
Attorneys for the state are expected to appeal to the High Court of Justice on Sunday, asking once more for a one month delay in the evacuation of families from their homes in the Jewish community of Amona, Israel Radio reported Friday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the delay is necessary to prepare temporary housing solutions for some of the 300 residents whose homes are to be demolished.
As it stands right now, the residents are slated to be expelled from their homes on December 25, if not before.
In 2006, residents and surrounding Israelis who stood in solidarity together with their neighbors fought against the evacuation when fewer than a dozen homes and structures were forcibly demolished in the same community. That expulsion swiftly became the most viciously conducted operation against Jews ever carried out by Israeli government forces in the history of the state. Both protesters and police were badly injured, with security horses used to trample some of those who were resisting evacuation, and batons used to batter and beat others. A number of people were permanently disabled; others were deeply traumatized.
The violence that took place was such that lawmakers and locals have never forgotten; the memory of “Amona” is seared into the consciousness of every Israeli who lives in Judea and Samaria.
Pro-“settler” Jewish Home party chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett has asked residents not to resist forces who come to evacuate them from their homes when the time comes.
But a growing number of IDF and Border Guard Police forces are also asking not to be involved in the evacuation process when the time comes to take Jewish residents from their homes.
The Hebrew-language 0404 website featured another handwritten letter alleged to be from one of the units Saturday evening, requesting not to be ordered to participate in the expulsion of Amona.
According to a report broadcast Saturday night by Channel 2 television news, each family evacuated from the community will receive financial compensation of approximately NIS 500,000 ($130,000), depending on the estimated value of their property.
The expulsion is due to an order by the Supreme Court, which in 2014 decided in favor of a petition by leftist groups working together with the Palestinian Authority, who claimed a portion of the community was built on privately-owned land that belonged to individual PA citizens.
Following a lengthy debate Wednesday, the Knesset passed in a preliminary vote the Arrangement for Settlements in Judea and Samaria Act 5777-2016, submitted by MKs Bezalel Smotrich, Yoav Kish, Shuli Mualem, David Bitan and Oren Hazan, with 58 for and 51 against. The bill will return to the joint committee for Constitution, Law and Justice and Foreign Affairs and Security, to be prepared for a second and third vote.
According to the thrice revised bill in its final version, should the military commander of Judea and Samaria find that in the period prior to the new legislation an Israeli settlement had been built on land where the use and retention rights do not belong to the military commander nor to the custodian of government property, and construction on the land had been done in good faith, or – in cases where previous ownership had not been proven – given government approval, land use rights shall be appropriated and passed to the custodian of government property. Henceforth, the appropriation of land use rights will remain in effect until a political decision is reached regarding the status of the territory.
A claimant who proved ownership of the appropriated land will be able to choose between collecting an annual rent at a rate of 125% of said land’s annual value; aggregated rent for periods of 20 years at a time at 125% of land value for this period of time; or receiving alternative land. Appropriate land market values shall be set by a committee established by the Justice Minister in consultation with the Defense Minister. Committee members shall be representatives of the justice and finance ministries, as well as a representative of the military commander.
As to the burning issue of Amona, in Samaria, which is slated for demolition by decree of the Supreme Court on Dec. 25, the new bill determines that all cases which have already been ruled by the courts prior to its going into effect will be carried out. However, regarding three settlements – Ofra, Netiv Ha’avot and Eli – all proceedings in areas about which the courts have not yet ruled will be suspended for 12 months. The military commander will use this delay to examine whether said settlements were established in good faith, in which case they, too, would be included in the new law.
Needless to say, the opposition – and Likud MK Benny Begin – was irate at the proposed bill and expressed its rage at length and in great detail, essentially accusing the Likud-led government of legalizing theft, as Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg noted, “Provided that the thieves are Jewish and those being stolen from are Arabs.”
MK Ayman Odeh (Joint Arab List) accused the government of populism and corruption. MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Camp) condemned the residents of Amona who dared set up temporary housing for thousands of protesters they invited for eviction day. MK Dov Hanin (Joint Arab List) said that had the government spent the time it devotes to Amona to finding solutions to Israel’s housing crisis, said crisis would have been long gone.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud) reminded the plenum that Israel, like all other governments, regularly employs the concept of eminent domain – the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation. The bill is attempting to employ the same logical principle in an occupied territory that should have been annexed and normalized long ago. Why must Israeli civilians suffer because their government still hesitates to make things right in Judea and Samaria?
Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett represented the government in the deabte and said the new bill is a historic turn in Israel’s history, deciding that half a million Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria “are not guests, nor are the occupiers, they are local residents.”
Bennett promised that next the government will impose Israeli sovereignty on the town of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Such a move will create an urban corridor across the narrowest segment of the liberated territories, eliminating any chance for a future contiguous Palestinian State.
“I wish to thank Peace Now, who’ve kept sending us little mosquitoes in the form of another Supreme Court ruling, and yet another one,” Bennett told the plenum. “Now, because of Peace Now we are no longer fighting the mosquitoes – we’re draining the swamp.”
The latter line was an obvious reference to President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to drain the DC swamp, and a clear promise from the Habayit Hayehudi leader to take full advantage of the new and very different leader of the free world.
The anti-Zionist NGO Yesh Din announced Tuesday night that the solution of moving the Amona residents to a nearby location where the land belongs to absentee landlords and could therefore be appropriated by the state “was never a possibility,” because those plots “have never been abandoned,” Walla reported. The NGO, which receives an annual budget of approximately $1.6 million from the EU, the UK, and a long list of European organizations, urged the Netanyahu government to “focus on its duty the evacuate Amona instead of trying to shirk its responsibility in many different ways.”
The Regulation Act attempting to deal with Arab claims against existing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria was approved by the Knesset in a preliminary vote Tuesday, but only after the Habayit Hayehudi bill’s sponsors agreed to drop item 7, which says the new law would include retroactively the Arab claimants against Amona. In return, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit promised his support to a solution that would include moving the expelled residents to a nearby three legal locations.
Now it turns out that Yesh Din has petitioned the Supreme Court regarding the ownership of two out of the three plots, which means the state may not declared the owners absentee landlords and may not appropriate them.
Initially, according to the proposal agreed upon by PM Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett and approved by the AG, the 42 Amona families were going to be moved to a 4.1 acre area. One of the plots was disqualified as unfitting for construction, leaving the remaining three plots which amount to 3.28 acres, where the new plan called for constructing 31 homes really close to one another.
The Amona residents, who were originally willing to go along with the new plan, are now fiercely against it, as one resident argued, “It amounts to stuffing us in caravans in a relocation camp, it doesn’t make sense.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looked tired Sunday afternoon (Dec. 4) as he sat down with lead columnist Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic to address an Israeli-American audience at The Saban Forum in Washington, D.C.
Israel, he said, “is moving in the wrong direction.”
The United States, meanwhile, has “never ever shied away from vetoing a resolution or standing up against an unfair and biased resolution at the UN, at the Human Rights Council, at UNESCO, you name it!” Ever a loyal ally, America stands strong for Israel — but there is “no status quo” and as a friend who feels “genuinely passionate about Israel,” John Kerry felt duty bound to try to help Israelis correct course if possible.
The Secretary begin speaking at the time stamp 44:08.
“I have to share with you facts,” Kerry told the participants, after running down the list of benefits Israel had enjoyed under the administration of President Barack Obama. “I come to you as somebody who is concerned for the safety and the security of the State of Israel, for the long-term ability of the State of Israel to be able to be what it has dreamt of being, and what the people of Israel, I believe, want it to be.”
Apparently, Israel’s electoral process, its legislative branch via the Knesset, its parliament, and its judiciary via the High Court of Justice and its Supreme Court, apparently aren’t relevant as a reflection of that desire.
“I’m here as someone defending Israel’s need for security,” Kerry went on, adding, “The questions I raise about Israel are not because I don’t care about Israel, but because we do care,” suddenly switching to the magisterial “we” form.
“It’s because we want to be able to see this thing develop into the full-blossomed beacon that Israel has the potential of being,” he continued, listing the numerous fields in which Israel is leading the way, such as agriculture, technology and finance, pointing out how Israel could be “sharing with Egypt, with Jordan… (could it be that Mr. Secretary has forgotten Israel has peace treaties and natural resource agreements with both of these nations?) … with the Emirates, with Saudi Arabia, with all of these countries.”
But, he said, the issue is: “Where are we going?
“Let me tell you,” he warned, “There.will.be.no.separate.peace.between.Israel.and.the.Arab.world.
“I want to make that very clear to all of you,” he emphasized. “The Arab world is in a very different place now. There will be no advance and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and without the Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.
“There is a basic choice that has to be made by Israel. Are there going to be continued settlements.. or is there going to be separate and the creation of two states?”
Kerry began a long discussion about the Oslo Accords, explaining their origin and sketching out a quick review of their progress and what he believes was the outcome. But the Secretary skipped over some parts, mixed up the timeline and didn’t mention all the terror attacks and violations by the Palestinian Authority that led to the Oslo Accords never quite being carried out the way the script was originally written.
“Now, when Oslo was signed in 1993, … there were 110,000 settlers in the West Bank. Today there are 385,000 settlers… about 90,000 settlers living outside of the barrier, and the barrier, I want to remind everyone here, was established by Israel. It’s a line — not a border, but still a line, established by Israel. There are 129 settlements, and there are about 100 outposts, and outposts, as you all know, are illegal,” Kerry said, his voice beginning to rise with outrage.
“Many of these outposts are built on what is considered to be private Palestinian land,” he stated, without offering a shred of proof, documentation, or even one source for the claim.
“Since Obama became president, the population outside of the barrier in the West Bank has increased by 20,000 people,” he said.
“Leaders, again, in Israel — certain leaders — are fond of saying, “well, the settlements aren’t the reason and the cause for the crisis. No, they’re not. I’m not pretending they are. I’m not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict. No, they’re not. But I also cannot accept the notion that they do not affect the peace process. That they aren’t a barrier to the capacity to have peace.
“And I’ll tell you why I know that. Because the Left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace and the Right that supports it, openly supports it, because they don’t want peace.
“They believe it’s the greater Israel. They are pursuing a policy of Greater Judea – Samaria, building out into the West Bank, because they believe it belongs to them, and they want it to block the peace!
“Because they want those places to belong to Israel. That’s the history of the settler movement, my friends.
“Out of the mouths of ministers in the current government come profoundly disturbing statements publicly, to whit: Naftali Bennett, said a few days ago, weeks ago, This represents the end of the era of the two-state solution. And, more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current government have publicly stated they are opposed to a Palestinian state, and there will be no Palestinian state.
“So this is the predicament. This is where we find ourselves… Let me give you the alternatives here, folks.
“What is your vision of a unitary state?
“Are you going to run the schools? Are you going to continue to have these roads that are completely checkpointed and blocked that lead to this little island all by itself of the settlement? And the Palestinians are going to live over here? (With this, the Secretary swept his hand over to the other side, a gesture to show isolation; a gesture that showed his frustration and angst.)
“Are they going to vote? And if they’re a majority of the population, are they going to have a Palestinian prime minister of Israel?
“Is it going to be a Jewish State?” Kerry asked. He sounded close to despair.