Amona residents reject government compromise, brace for evacuation

After exhausting all foreseeable solutions, the residents of Amona are preparing to be removed from their homes.

The residents of Amona have rejected the government’s proposed solution that would have allowed them to receive a plot of land on the same hill where they are currently situated – with the possibility of longterm dwellings – in return for leaving their homes peacefully, in accordance with an impending court-ordered evacuation.

Following prolonged deliberations throughout Wednesday, 58 of the community’s 83 residents voted against the compromise reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, saying that the offer comes with no guarantees. They termed the framework “Swiss cheese” for its apparent holes, as the result is contingent upon impending legal proceedings that could fail.

By doing so, the residents of Amona have turned down calls by their political and rabbinical leaders to accept the proposal.

“We were willing to accept the destruction of our private homes and a move from place to place, if only a Jewish community would remain on the hill. But the proposed arrangement does not provide any guarantee or commitment that we will indeed receive an alternative home. In light of this and in view of the uncertainty in the proposal, the residents of Amona decided tonight, after 10 hours of debate, to reject the proposed layout,” the community said in a statement.

Under the rejected proposal, the state would have agreed to set up temporary housing on plots of land next to Amona, granting them provisional authorization for two years. During that period, the state would seek court authorization to fully recognize the plots as absentee property whose owners have not recognized or paid taxes on it for decades, thus allowing the temporary community to become permanent. In exchange, the residents of Amona would have agreed to leave their homes peacefully.

The government responded to the rejection by saying that the residents had turned down the best offer possible.

Amona, built in the 1990s, is under a 2014 court order to be evacuated by December 25 because it was allegedly built on private Palestinian land.

The police has already built up it presence ahead of an impending operation to clear the hill, and a forced evacuation is expected in the coming days.

Hundreds of supporters have arrived to show solidarity with the residents and to protest the evacuation. Amona’s leadership has called for peaceful resistance.

However, fears loom of possible violence, especially on the backdrop of a similar incident in Amona in 2006, when police used excessive force against demonstrators who, in many instances, responded in kind.

Glass Half Full

A byproduct of the struggle for Amona is the Regulation bill, which is going through the motions of becoming law in the Knesset.

The proposed legislation stipulates that communities which were built on private land or non-state-owned land will not be demolished. Rather, the land will be expropriated and the owner of the land will be compensated.

It addresses hundreds of instances in which Israelis built homes with government consent or encouragement, only later to discover that the land may be privately owned or otherwise in dispute.

The agreement does not retroactively apply to cases in which the High Court had already ruled, and therefore the destruction of homes in Amona could not be prevented under this law.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News