Much international attention is being paid to the controversy surrounding the West Bank outpost called Amona. It is situated on what is alleged to be private Palestinian land and therein lies the rub.

Israel’s Supreme Court has decreed that given its conclusions that the site is indeed private land – there are competing views, to be sure – the residents of Amona must be uprooted and any buildings there must be dismantled by December 25. But this controversy, which has now been going on for a decade, is widely misunderstood. In effect, Israel is being denied the authority to do what many other countries have done in the course of their own nation-building.


In 2006, thousands of Israeli police officers descended on Amona to take down nine homes located there. But there was a furious reaction from the residents and their supporters. The homes were torn down and three hundred people were injured by mounted policemen, who beat protesters with batons.

That encounter resulted in a ten-year hiatus in any confrontations – until now. So the Netanyahu government is moving feverishly to work out a solution. What’s in play is a plan to temporarily relocate the residents of Amona to nearby previously private Palestinian land whose title has been transferred to Israel under the Absentees Property Law until a more permanent solution can be devised. As we understand it, this would satisfy the Supreme Court and the Amona community. The court would, however, have to agree to a postponement of the December 25 deadline to allow for the relocation of the buildings rather than their destruction.

This approach is not written in stone and the situation is very fluid and may yet change. But what is being lost is all of the international angst over Israel’s settlement policy in Amona and elsewhere in Judea and Samaria is that all nations have reserved for their governments the power of eminent domain, allowing for the dislocation of occupiers of land for the public good – with of course, appropriate compensation.

Most American are familiar with the phrase “Manifest Destiny,” which characterized the determination of Americans in the 1700s and 1800s – periods of vast growth –to settle all land between the East and West coasts in fulfillment of their national destiny. To the South, Americans claimed vast stretches of Mexican territory. And the story of the seizure of Native American land during the course of America’s nation-building is an oft-told one.

What’s commonly ignored is that Israel’s policies and practices respecting land occupied by Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are far more benign than those pursued by earlier generations of Americans in the interest of Manifest Destiny, although the goal is similar.

And there is an added factor. Israel has been confronted at significant points in its history with an Arab world bent on its annihilation. Yet it survived, and by dint of military success was able to seize stretches of land previously won by Arab armies in various conflicts. Why are Israel’s successes in defensive wars deemed less efficacious than Arab conquests in wars of aggression? An honest answer to that question would be an enormous first step toward a truly just peace for Israelis and Arabs alike.


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