Netanyahu warns ministers: Regulation Bill could bring us to the ICC
Attorney general presents compromise that includes temporary move of Amona until a more permanent solution can be found and the establishment of a land dispute court, but conditions it on shelving the bill that could retroactively legalize Jewish outposts built on privately-owned land.
The prosecutor's office at the ICC has recently conducted a preliminary examination of the situation in the disputed territories in an effort to determine whether to launch a full-scale investigation against Israel for war crimes.
"If this bill passes, we might be taken to The Hague," Netanyahu warned during a six-hour cabinet meeting on the impending evacuation of Amona, an illegal Jewish outpost set for evacuation and demolition on December 25 after the High Court of Justice determined it was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
The prime minister also said the legislation could prompt outgoing US President Barack Obama to act against Israel at the UN Security Council in the time he has left before he has to leave office in January.
The Regulation Bill has already been approved at the Knesset in a preliminary reading. It is scheduled to go for its first reading on Wednesday, but the attorney general has warned that in its current form, the bill will be indefensible at the High Court of Justice.
Despite this, the Bayit Yehudi party, and particularly leader Naftali Bennett, are not willing to back down on the legislation.
"We won't let go of this bill until we can see solutions being implemented for Amona and the entire settlement enterprise," officials in the party said.
During the government meeting, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit presented a compromise that entails moving Amona for a period of eight months to three nearby plots of land that belong to absentee Palestinian land owners.
During those eight months, planning and construction officials will work alongside legal experts to find nearby available land to permanently move the outpost to.
At the same time, the attorney general will examine the possibility of introducing the "Cypriot Model," wherein a land dispute court will be established in the West Bank to deal with such issues and prevent similar crises in the future.
While the offered solution is made up of different suggestions raised by political officials, Mandelblit stressed that it is only valid if the Regulation Bill does not pass.
"If the Regulation Bill passes in the Knesset, then this rationale will no longer apply and the Defense Ministry will be required to immediately evacuate the plots," Mandelblit wrote in his legal opinion.
The compromise proposal will have to receive the approval of the High Court of Justice, and Mandelblit will be required to defend it against any petitions.
But while officials in Bayit Yehudi said the compromise offer was a step in the right direction, it still doesn't completely resolve the Amona issue. The party will therefore continue promoting the legislation, and only give it up when the first caravan is set up in the new location.
MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi), who chairs the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said the committee is not obligated to accept the attorney general's legal opinion. He insisted that the Knesset has the authority to decide on legislation and does not have to accept the legal advice offered by Mandelblit or the Knesset's legal advisors.
Members of the opposition have asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to postpone the Regulation Bill's first reading, stating in their request that a discussion has not yet been held regarding the security and diplomatic aspects of the bill.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) called on the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to act within the constraints of the law. "I asked to bring the legal advisors of the Foreign and Justice ministries in front of the committee so they can explain to its members the meaning of the decision vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court at The Hague," she said.
Amona's residents rejected the compromise proposal, saying it "does not constitute a solution for the residents of Amona at all. This is a ridiculous and humiliating proposal, made by someone who does not consider the dozens of families and hundreds of children who have built a life here for 20 years. We are not objects that can be moved from one place to another every few months. We will not be uprooted from our homes, agreeing to go elsewhere, only to be kicked out of that place again to the unknown eight months later."
"The public will not tolerate the destruction of Amona," the residents noted. "There are only two options left: Passing the Regulation Bill, which will prevent a great injustice that would be done to Israeli citizens who were sent to this place by Israel's governments, or a forced and painful evacuation of hundreds of Jews from their homes—one in which the prime minister and his cabinet will have to bear the responsibility for its grave outcome. Amona will not fall again."
The residents of Amona are preparing for the impending evacuation by building a campsite of temporary structures to house the hundreds of activists who are expected to join them in their protest. Dozens of volunteers have already arrived in Amona to help set up infrastructure for the campsite.
"The Amona evacuation will be a mega-event," Amona activists warned. "The restraint the public had shown during the evacuation of Gush Katif will all but disappear. We may not be violent people—but we'll protest using serious passive measures to make the erasure of a town a traumatic event in Israel's history."
The legal NGO Yesh Din, which represents the Palestinian land owners, also criticized the compromise proposal, saying "Instead of putting an end to the continuous harm done to the Palestinian land owners and act as is expected of Israel's number one gatekeeper, the attorney general has succumbed to political pressures and has agreed to a 'solution' that violates the law and the property rights of the Palestinian population, and is in contradiction of international law and the Justice Ministry's policy over the last 30 years."