US: “This settlement’s location deep in the West Bank… would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote,”
Israel intends to move ahead with plans to construct 98 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh, despite harsh United States objections to the plan.
On Monday the state informed the High Court of Justice it awaited final bureaucratic approval to develop the site within six months as a relocation option for the 40 families from the Amona outpost.
It, therefore, asked the HCJ to delay by seven months the mandated December 25 demolition of the outpost.
Alternatively, the state said, it was also pursuing the option of using the abandoned property law, so that it could relocate the outpost to land adjacent to the community’s current location.
Washington has rebuked Israel for both plans, but the State Department issued a particularly sharp statement in which it said the Shiloh project was tantamount to the creation of a new settlement, something Israel had promised the US it would not do.
“This settlement’s location deep in the West Bank… would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote,” the State Department had said.
But in its statement to the High Court of Justice, the state said that it wanted to avoid the kind of violent clashes that occurred in 2006 at the outpost between right-wing activists and security forces, during a court mandated demolition of nine homes.
It warned that a poorly executed evacuation “could have a security and political impact on the region,” particularly given “the sensitive reality” in which Israel finds itself.
“The state wants to prevent the harsh images and results, as well as the injuries, that accompanied the evacuation that occurred there a decade ago,” the prosecutors said, noting that there are 200 children living in the outpost.
The Campaign to Save Amona has stated that the families have no intention of leaving of their own volition, and have warned politicians, including Netanyahu, to watch out for their seats in the next election should their community be destroyed.
The Amona families have called on Netanyahu to retroactively legalize 2,000 unauthorized homes throughout Judea and Samaria built on private Palestinian property.
The bill offers to compensate the Palestinian landowners either financially or with alternative lots.
Most members of Netanyahu’s Likud and Bayit Yehudi factions have promised to support that bill.
But in a speech to mark the opening session of the Knesset on Monday, Netanyahu hinted that he would not do so, when he told the plenum he intended to demolish the Amona outpost.
“I am certain that at the end of the day the [Amona] residents will evacuate responsibly,” he said. “We need to remember that we are a nation of laws.”
Netanyahu told the Knesset that there won’t be any other government that would help their enterprise more than his has done.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who spoke immediately after Netanyahu, reminded the parliamentarians that the High Court had issued it’s ruling in 2014, thereby giving the state two years to evacuate the outpost residents.
He added that the issue was whether a nation of laws would sanction land theft by authorizing 2,000 homes built without permission on private Palestinian property.
Politicians can’t argue about the need to comply with law and then try to skirt a court ruling, Herzog said. They can’t speak of the importance of the rule of law, and simultaneously support a bill to retroactively authorize such settler homes throughout the West Bank.
“You are talking about an arrangements bill for private property that would harm the principles of justice of a nation of laws,” Herzog said. “That is not an Arrangements bill, it’s a concealment bill without shame.”
In its document to the court, the state also spoke of the bill as well as the determination of the Amona families to remain where they are.
The prosecutors said they hoped those objections would fall away when it was understood that the entire community would be relocated to permanent homes together at the same new location.
The state said that it had begun seeking alternative sites in January 2015, and had weighed sites in the settlements of Ofra, Ma’aleh Mishmash, and Ma’aleh Amona before settling on the possibility of building a new neighborhood in the Shiloh settlement, next to one named Shvuet Rachel.
Amona was built in 1995 without permits from the government or the Defense Ministry on private Palestinian property. It received a NIS 2.1 million grant from the Ministry of Housing and Construction.
The state’s request to delay the outpost’s evacuation is the latest in a series of delays to an initial court ruling, which was issued in response to a petition by the non-governmental group Yesh Din.
It called on the court to reject the petition stating that it was an “insult to the rule of law” and was politically motivated to “evade carrying out the ruling.”
“Yesh Din expects the High Court to reject this request swiftly in order to aid the State in directing its efforts to enforcing the law and returning the land in question to its rightful owners, residents of the Palestinian communities of Silwad, Taybeh and Ein Yabrud, as it should be doing,” the group said.
In interview, justice minister nixes settlement freezes, prisoner releases.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will collapse if he violates redlines set by Bayit Yehudi ahead of the Paris peace conference that begins Friday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Thursday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Shaked said she hoped the interview would be read in Paris by the delegates to the conference so they will know that if they are expecting gestures from Netanyahu to the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, his hands are tied.
“There is no problem with talking,” she said. “But giving something in response for talking is unacceptable. We will not sit in a government that freezes settlements. We will not sit in a government that releases murderers.”
Bayit Yehudi has continued to serve in governments that have made both of those gestures to the Palestinians. But Shaked said her party accepted a settlement freeze when led by former leaders, not current chairman Naftali Bennett.
When reminded that Bayit Yehudi did not leave the government under Bennett’s leadership when murderers were released from Israeli prisons, she said the murderers had been in prison for more than 20 years and that Bennett prevented prisoner releases of more recent murderers and of Israeli-Arab murderers.
Shaked said she believed Netanyahu was genuinely interested in starting a regional diplomatic process, though she does not believe it will succeed, but not due to the Israeli side.
Bayit Yehudi is not opposed to the Zionist Union joining the coalition, but is unwilling to give up its portfolios to facilitate the expansion of the government.
Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon called upon the Zionist Union to join the coalition Wednesday but Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog rejected the offer.
“Kahlon can forget about getting us to give legitimacy to the Netanyahu government’s wrong ways,” the Zionist Union said in a statement Thursday. “We oppose the government’s path and we will not join it.”