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The Amona Settlement

The international community considers Israeli settlements and outposts on the West Bank illegal and contrary to international law, which prohibits acqusition of land through military conquest or occupation. UN Charter (1945), article 2, para. 4: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..." Settlements are seen as one of the main obstacles to the creation of a Palestinian state.

The Amona outpost, built on private Palestinian land in 1995 on a hill near Ramallah in the central West Bank, is home to about 40 families. It is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts — built without permission but generally tolerated by the government — that dot the West Bank. A partial evacuation a decade ago sparked violent clashes between residents and security forces.

In July 2016 Likud Minister Haim Katz compared the efforts of right-wing politicians to save the outpost of some 40 families with the actions of political opponents of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. The families who built Amona did so on behalf of their country and should now not be forced to be pay a price for their patriotism because of the complex legal circumstances in which the outpost finds itself, Katz said. The High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of the entire outpost, because the community of some 40 families was built without permits on land which belongs to private Palestinians. Past efforts, including failed attempts to pass legislation had not averted the demolition of the Migron outpost or the destruction of 30 homes in the Ulpana outpost in 2012.

In November 2016 the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the state to dismantle the 50 mobile homes at Amona on the occupied West Bank, including a synagogue and a playground, before 25 December 2016. Amona was a clear cut-case of land theft. All the lands in Amona are private Palestinian-registered land, and this is land that was stolen 20 years ago from Palestinian landowners.

The verdict followed a government appeal challenging the court's 2014 decision to order Amona's evacuation. The Israeli government now has less than 10 days to implement the court ruling. The relocation plan involved moving some of the families peacefully to a nearby plot of land and others to the nearby settlement of Ofra. Residents said the plan wouldn't have provided an adequate solution for all the families. If adjustments were made, they could reconsider the proposal, they said.

In order to show support for the settler community, the government promoted new legislation that could prevent such cases in the future. As many as 54 outposts could be retroactively legalized through the bill, which would then have the ability to expand.

The so-called "regulation bill" to legalize West Bank outposts, deemed indefensible by attorney general, passed preliminary reading 58-50 after gaining full coalition support. . For the first time, it would apply Israeli domestic law to the West Bank rather than military law, which is a major step towards the process of annexation. When the law passed the first reading in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset, one of the chief proponents said proudly – and I quote – “Today, the Israeli Knesset moved from heading towards establishing a Palestinian state towards Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

Opposition legislators said the bill would legalize “daylight robbery” of private Palestinian land. The so-called Regulation Bill, designed to avert to the court-ordered demolition of the West Bank outpost of Amona by December 25, passed by 58-50 after it won the backing of coalition ministers. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also said he opposed the measure on the grounds that it would harm the rest of the settlement enterprise. However, he and his party voted for the measure with the rest of the coalition. Even the Israeli attorney general has said that the draft law is unconstitutional and a violation of international law.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said the legislation ran contrary to international law and would be indefensible in the High Court of Justice. Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni slammed Kahlon’s defense of the legislation, saying she had “never heard such a ridiculous excuse ... This law already causes huge damage, not just to the High Court but also to the pillars of Israeli democracy... It mocks the court’s ruling, the rule of law, the attorney general, international law and basic morals." Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid said that the bill would not become Israeli law and was nothing but a political move to appease the settler community but offered no real solution. “They are taking them for a ride,” he said.

MK Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli (Jewish Home), who sponsored one iteration of the bill, even threatened to cause a coalition crisis, claiming that “the smell of elections is in the air.” Moalem-Rafaeli told Hebrew media that if the law does not pass, her party members would no longer view themselves as obligated to vote along with the coalition — a scenario that could bring down the government and spur new elections.

Israeli border police clashed 01 February 2017 with Jewish settlers resisting the eviction of a hardline Jewish settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank after a court ruled the homes were built on private Palestinian land. Police said they were "attacked by anarchists with materials that made their eyes burn," adding that more than a dozen officers were "lightly wounded by stones and the liquids thrown at them".

The officers' evacuation of Amona marked the end of months of attempts by government hardliners to legalise the outpost, and the approval over the past two weeks of nearly 5,000 new settler homes elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territories was widely seen as a move to win their support. There had been fears of violence after hundreds of hardline sympathisers of the settlers slipped past army roadblocks on foot and lit tires around the outpost.

In the ten days since the 20 January 2017 inauguration of US President Donald Trump, Israel had approved the construction of 566 housing units in three settlement neighbourhoods of occupied East Jerusalem and 5,502 more elsewhere in the West Bank.

In an historic first, on 06 February 2017 Israel legalized West Bank outposts with sweeping new legislation. The controversial law, which recognized building on private Palestinian land, passed final Knesset votes by 60 to 52, despite warnings. The so-called Regulation Bill paved the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 illegally built settler homes on 16 parcels of private Palestinian land. “The chance that it will be struck down by the Supreme Court is 100 percent,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said.

Speaking for the government in defense of the measure before the vote, Science Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said the vote was not just over this specific law, but rather about the right of the Jewish people to live in Israel. “This whole debate is based on one question: Who does this land belong to?” he told the plenary.

Initially proposed by the Jewish Home party, the original proposal was intended to overturn the High Court of Justice verdict forbidding the expropriation of the privately owned Palestinian land on which the Amona settlement once stood. The clause that would have circumvented that court ruling, however, was removed from the bill before passage.

The law would curtail property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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Page last modified: 16-02-2017 12:35:33 ZULU