High Court Rejects Alternative Plan for Evicted Amona Residents

Despite the efforts of the Netanyahu government to find alternative housing for the evicted Amona residents, the High Court of Justice sided with leftist NGO Yesh Adin and rejected the plan. 

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a government proposal for Amona, casting an additional pall over the future for former residents of the community. The ruling sent a clear message that the court will declare a bill aimed at legalizing expropriated communities in Judea and Samaria illegal should the Knesset vote it into law.

Instead, the court accepted a petition by Yesh Din, a left-wing Israeli NGO whose stated mission is “to oppose the continuing ‘violation of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’… by raising public awareness of such violations, and by applying public and legal pressures on government agencies to end them.”

In mid-December, Amona residents approved a compromise deal that offered a relocation deal for  24 of the 40 families at an adjacent plot regulated as “absentee property,” but the deal was on hold since January 23, while the court considered a petition filed by residents of the Palestinian village of Silwad and the left-wing legal rights NGO Yesh Din.

The replacement plots for the evacuated Amona residents were located on what was considered unclaimed land and were to be incorporated as state land through the Absentee Property Law. Palestinians from Silwad are now claiming ownership.

In the petition, accepted by the court, Yesh Din claimed that the plots of land which the State had set aside to construct alternative housing for the residents of Amona consisted of privately owned Arab land.

In response to the decision, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, told Israel Army radio that the only “Zionist response” would be for the government to authorize the establishment of a new settlement for the evicted families, the first in 25 years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed a team on Wednesday evening, with the evacuation of Amona still ongoing, whose task it will be to work towards that goal.

Challenging the High Court ‘Dictatorship’

Regavim, the National Land Protection Trust, blasted the court decision Wednesday, arguing that it does not treat unrecognized Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria according to the same standards it applies to illegal construction in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev.

“Regarding the Amona affair, the High Court was never content – going until the demolition of houses even considering the many petitions that were filed on behalf of Amona landowners proving there was no dispute over their true ownership,” Regavim stated. “Today will be remembered as the day the High Court singlehandedly caused a further erosion in public confidence in the judicial system.”

The Supreme Court judges are appointed on the basis of seniority and are not vetted by the Knesset – an issue that several politicians and lay people have been attempting to change in recent years, noting the power of the court to overrule government decisions, as in the case of Amona. Many have challenged the status quo. Attorney Yoram Sheftel, for instance, already in 2011 stated that “a group of leftists joined together to form a Supreme Court dictatorship,” noting that in the US, a federal judge is subject to a hearing of the Senate Constitutional Committee.

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“The supreme court has gutted the ability of any elected government actually to govern, and ended up undermining rather than protecting both human rights and the rule of law,” remarked political commentator and former legal reporter Evelyn Gordon, in a recent essay in Mosaic Magazine.

By World Israel News
(TPS contributed to this report.)