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The Amona outpost. 'The government has violated its commitment to the public'
Photo: Shaul Golan
Amona residents threaten to resume struggle
Following the failure to implement the agreement signed with them last month, and following Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new US president, the outpost’s residents are demanding a resubmission of the original Regulation Bill, or else ‘the state will have to deal with quite a difficult protest.’
Minister Ofir Akunis visited Amona last Tuesday. It was a beautiful day as he arrived at the mountain the outpost is located on. While it was cold, the sky was bright and the soft sun painted the nature around the mountain with a soft and pleasant light.

 

 

The minister asked the residents to show him the plots they are supposed to move to as part of the agreement they signed with the prime minister a month ago. According to the agreement, which has been termed “the Amona outline,” the construction work in the area should have begun immediately after the agreement was signed. In practice, not a single power shovel has arrived to prepare the ground and not a single piece of land has been leveled.

 

Amona. ‘No compensation, no outlines. Just let us stay in our home by the power of the law’ (Photo: Tomeriko)
Amona. ‘No compensation, no outlines. Just let us stay in our home by the power of the law’ (Photo: Tomeriko)

 

The status of the plots the outpost is supposed to be relocated to is now being examined, after Palestinian residents from the nearby town of Silwad submitted objections to the outline, claiming to be the land owners. As a result, there is nothing happening on the ground, and everyone is waiting for an official declaration that the signed outline has failed and will not be implemented.

 

Kahlon’s compromise

The target date set by Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, in the extension she provided at the state’s request for the outpost’s evacuation, was February 8. Naor made the decision under the condition that Amona’s residents would promise to evacuate quietly, without any resistance or conflict. According to the commitment, which was signed by all adults in Amona, “Their commitment is unconditional.” In other words, it does not depend on the implementation and execution of the state’s commitment in the outlined agreement.

 

In light of the stalemate, the residents’ Action Committee plans to resume its activity in the political field this week, following Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new US president. The goal is to pressure Likud and Bayit Yehudi Knesset members and ministers to resubmit the Regulation Bill to the Knesset and reinclude the Amona clause, which was removed following Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon’s refusal to support the bill due to the damage it causes the Supreme Court.

 

“The purpose of the pressure we exert will be to regulate Amona, without compensation, without outlines. Simply to allow us to stay in our home by the power of the law,” says Avichai Boaron, head of the community’s Action Committee.

 

There is cautious optimism among the residents. It is the result of details being revealed about the discussions that were held on the Regulation Bill and the Amona clause, and the drama that took place behind the scenes in the corridors of the Knesset more than a month ago. Finance Minister Kahlon was merely an excuse for keeping Amon out of the bill. He was actually willing to compromise and reach an understanding.

 

While Kahlon did oppose the clause stating that the law would also apply to cases in which there was a conclusive court ruling, he was prepared to support a wording stressing the importance of the High Court’s status and its contribution to Israeli democracy, and so cases in which a conclusive ruling had been delivered would be returned to the court for discussion.

 

A renewed court discussion, in light of the new law expropriating the land from its private owners, would have made it possible to leave Amona in its current location. “We will be slightly attacked by the public and the media for such a wording, but it’s not that bad,” Kahlon had said in discussions held before the bill’s preliminary reading.

 

But the talks with Kahlon did not develop into an understanding, and the law was brought to a preliminary reading without the inclusion of Amona. It was clear to all the involved parties that the law would not be brought for a second and third reading as long as Barack Obama was still in the White House.

 

Akunis’ embrace

Now that it’s clear that the signed outline is unfeasible, the residents are demanding a resubmission of the original bill, which includes the regulation of outposts on which the court has already delivered a conclusive ruling. They are relying on Akunis’ statement at the outpost last week, that all Likud ministers and MKs are committed to solving the Amona problem.

 

Activists supporting the outpost’s residents have also begun spreading on social media a comment made by Coalition Chairman David Bitan last Wednesday, that “if the Amona outline collapses, we will regulate Amona in the Regulation Bill.” The outpost’s residents are encouraged by these words not just because of their content. They know that Bitan is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that he often says out loud what is being said in closed forums at the Prime Minister’s Office. According to a political source, “If Bitan is talking about regulating Amona in a law, he is saying that based on the knowledge that Netanyahu will support it.”

 

The Amona residents have already lost faith in the outline and are distributing the following warning on social media: “If the construction work on the ground does not begin by next Monday, two weeks before the planned evacuation, the conclusion is clear: The government is violating its commitment to the public. We will no longer be bound by the signed agreement either and will be forced to renew the struggle.”

 

According to Boaron, the residents have no choice but to renew the public struggle. He sees no logic in implementing their commitment to evacuate their homes without any resistance, regardless of the situation on the ground.

 

“When we made that commitment, we never imagined that the political echelons would fail to meet the commitment it gave us. We committed based on the assumption that we would move to the alternative homes built on the new plots. We have no doubt that the honorable Chief Justice Naor has no intention of denying our right to protest. If we are eventually forced to leave Amona without a solution and without an implementation of the (terms originally) outlined, the state will have to deal with quite a difficult protest.”

 

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