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Amona residents
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Amona residents accept new government deal
Amona residents vote to accept agreement which will see 24 families remain on the mountain in a nearby plot; protesters begin leaving Amona, as per the wishes of the residents.

Amona residents have voted 45 to 29 to accept a new government deal, whereby 24 families would remain on the mountain upon which Amona is situated, but on a nearby plot of land.

 

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief of staff Yoav Horowitz met with Amona residents and Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan at the home of a close associate of Dagan's on Saturday night.

 

After reaching an agreement, the sides went to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu and Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office. "I'm afraid of 'price tag' attacks as a result of a forced evacuation," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Amona represents. "And it's more convinient for me to do this when (US President-elect) Trump is in the White House—not (outgoing US President) Obama."

  

View from Amona (Photo: Ido Erez) (Photo: Ido Erez)
View from Amona (Photo: Ido Erez)

 

Following the vote, the Amona residents released a statement, saying "ever since the sentence to demolish our homes was passed, we have been on a Sisyphean task to try and save our homes and our settlement.

 

"After 20 years of pioneering settlements, and against all odds, and after two years of struggle, we have decided to suspend our struggle, take the government's offer to build 52 houses and public buildings in new Amona—buildings which will be used by the community and by the residents. We have decided to take a chance on this offer to build our houses and our lives in new Amona."

   

The residents further states their intention to "continue to be vigilant and determine whether or not the State will stand by its word to build New Amona, including the new public buildings. We wish to thank the thousands of supporters—youths and families—who came to Amona over the last few days, and the tens of thousands more who supported us from home. We love you and appreciate you."

 

With that being said, the residents clarified, saying "if the State doesn’t stand by its commitments, we will not hesitate to re-start the struggle, and we will fight harder than before. We will fight for our settlement and for the entirety of the land of Israel—Amona will not fall again."

 

Activists leaving Amona (Photo: Elisha Ben Kimon)
Activists leaving Amona (Photo: Elisha Ben Kimon)
 

 

Rabbi Yair Frank, the Rabbi of Amona, was quoted as saying after the adoption of the government deal that "we began our fight two years ago to preserve Jewish settlement. We took our foot off the gas pedal, and we are letting the State stand by its commitment to rebuild Amona for its residents (in a different location)."

 

Should the State not follow through on its commitments, Rabbi Frank said that "we will not hesitate to renew the fight. This is what we've decided, and we ask the public to support us. We have no doubts that we'll return to the whole mountain."

 

Head of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council Yossi Dagan was quoted as saying "it's a difficult and sad day for the residents of Amona. What happened to them would never have happened to the Bedouin (who live in illegal structures and villages) in the Negev or any other population."

 

"This is the correct decision," he continued. "It is the lesser of two evils. All eyes are on the prim ministr now. We believe and hope that the prime minister will stand by and fulfill his part of the agreement."

 

The plan includes the construction of 24 home that will be 180sqm in size and able to house two families on Hill 38, located at the entrance of the outpost. Civl Administration engineers will arrive to the outpost on Monday to start planning the project.

 

Concurrently, the government will begin unfreezing lands on Hill 30 that belong to absentee owners so more homes could be built there. A project manager selected by the Amona residents will accompany the legal process.

 

The plan is to have a "door-to-door" evacuation in which each of the 41 families could move from their current homes in Amona directly to their new homes in "Amona North." Families whose housing won't be ready on time will temporarily move to the nearby settlement of Ofra.

 

Eventually, the goal is to unite the different plots into one town.

 

The plan, which has the attorney general's support, is conditioned upon the High Court of Justice granting the state a 30-day extension on the evacuation deadline, set for December 25.

 

The evacuation is going to be pricey. Providing assistance to the residents of Amona, building alternative public structures and handling security and the evacuees' move will cost the tax payer some NIS 150 million, according to estimates made by the Treasury.

 

The Treasury will make an immediate transfer of NIS 40 million to the Interior Ministry to be allocated to the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council for a one-time aid package for Amona's permanent residents and for the residents of the nine illegal structures due for demolition in the nearby Ofra settlement.

 

In addition, the Treasury will transfer an additional NIS 9 million by the end of the month meant to fund the construction of infrastructure and temporary public buildings.

 

The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, will allocate NIS 3.5 million to rent housing for the evacued families for a month and a half interim period.

 

NIS 15 million will go to building and renovating public structures used to house the Amona residents in nearby settlements and tens of millions of shekels will be allocated to cover the costs of infrastructure, roads and security.

 

The government approved the plan but had to also a prove a NIS 1.2 billion cut to ministries across the board to help pay for the Amona evacuation, as well as ultra-Orthodox education and keeping the old Israel Broadcasting Authority on air until the end of April 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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