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A settler I spoke with who lives in Amona
All photos by Rhonda Spivak

The caravans of Amona on a barren hilltop

A young mother who lives in Amona

A white trailer where a family in Amona lives

Ramallah can be seen in the distance

Security in Amona with Ramallah in the the distance

Editor's Report: My Visit to The Contentious West Bank Jewish Settlement of Amona To be Evacuated by February 2017

by Rhonda Spivak, December 22, 2016



I have been thinking of my visit to the the Jewish  settlement of Amona  located on a bald mountaintop  in the West Bank , since the  Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that it this "illegal" settlement must be demolished  by Feb 8, 2017 since it was built on private Palestinian land.  The Palestinians who owned the land successfully petitioned Israeli courts for the outpost's removal.



The Jewish settlers living on the contentious hill of Amona  have certainly  not been living in luxury , but rather in white trailers ("caravanim"), and the ones I spoke to , like the young man in my first photo, believe that the land ought to be part of State of Israel, in that it was promised to the Jewish people in the Bible. "This land used to be Jordan, and Jordan's annexation of it was never recognized. Jordan lost it in the '67 war, " the young kippa wearing native English speaker told me. I asked him about the Palestinians. He replied calmly, "They can have a state in Jordan-but not here."



Another Jewish resident of Amona,  told me that only part of the settlement that was founded in 1995 lay on private Palestinian land (the southern half), but the other part was on land that  was Israeli state land (the northern half).  I wondered at the time if this was true. Apparently the government looked at moving 15 families onto different plots in the northern half of Amona, but the Supreme Court held that all 60 acres of Amona had to be razed to the ground.



I walked around Amona, noticing how many young children were playing happily in front of the trailers of Amona, which  overlooks Ramallah , the seat of power for Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority. In the distance  I could see  Ramallah quite clearly  (see photos 5 and 6).  I learned that Amona was born when  young men and women of  the nearby settlement of Ofra choose a nearby hilltop and established a new community there.



Last month, Israel's Supreme Court  rejected an Israeli government petition to postpone demolition of  Amona. The government no doubt wanted to delay the demolition since the eviction could destabilize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line coalition.


One of the images I remember most of my visit to Amona was  of a little blonde Jewish boy with blue eyes  in a red shirt wearing tzizit carrying a very large black toy machine gun. Looking at him, I wondered whether Amona would be the site of  violence in the future.


In 2006, Israeli police demolished nine homes at Amona, which caused clashes with settlers. This occurred since the Israeli Supreme Court already back in  2006 had found that Amona was illegal under Israeli law,  but its status remained in the grey zone since the Israeli government continued to fight the court's eviction order. According to Ha'aretz In May 2014 an Israeli police investigation exposed the fact that the entire outpost lay on private Palestinian land, and that the settlers  had forged documents showing they had purchased the site. In December 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court  ordered the state to completely evacuate and demolish the settlement within two years, which brings us to today.



Amona's stuggle has prompted the  Knesset to pass the first reading of a Regulation bill that will retroactively legalize  homes Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank ( but the construction must have been in good faith, in that the builders were not aware they were constructing on private land)  The bill even if passed into law will not save Amona. The bill will enable the government  to appropriate land in the West Bank for its own use if the owners of it are not known. According to the bill, Palestinians who can prove owner ship of land on which outposts were built will not be able to demand evacuation of Jews living there and instead will receive monetary compensation or lands elsewhere. The effect of the bill will be to retroactively legalize some 4000 settlement homes. 


But, even if the  bill becomes law, my gut instinct is that the  Israeli Supreme Court could well l find the new Regulation law to be unconstitutional.  (As an aside, In 1996 I was called to the Israeli Bar in 1996 after articling at the Association of Civil Rights in Israel  where I practiced in the field of constitutional law.) The Times of Israel has reported that "Israel’s attorney-general, Avichai Mandelblit, has warned that the bill breaches local and international law, and indicated that he would not be able to defend it before the Supreme Court." That is not a promising sign.


Netanyahu may well believe that that it's best for him  to support the law and maintain the support of the settler base,with the knowledge that the the Supreme Court t will likely strike the law down anyway. It's better politically for him and his coalition allies if three parties if the Amona evacuation happens while the settlement bill is still hanging in the air (such that it appears that the 40 families will be sacrificing their homes for the benefit of saving the 4000 others) .


The law passed first reading with of the Knesset with only Benny Begin opposing it among the governing coalition. Benny Begin, who has supported the settlement enterprise in general, referred to the bill as , “the stealing law,”  according to the Times of Israel.


Opponents of the bill see it as an end run around the Supreme Court's decision and believe it damages the power of the Court. 


As Tova Lazoroff has written in the Jerusalem Post, passage of the Regulation Bill "is likely to be immediately condemned by the international community. It would be frowned on by the International Criminal Court, which is already examining Israeli settlement activity, and would consider seizure of private Palestinian property to be illegal." She also wrote, " Netanyahu, who has only reluctantly supported the legislation, has warned that it would place Israel in trouble with the ICC."


Apparently the bill will not be passed into law until after Donald Trump takes over as US President. And the  Israeli government once again intends to ask the Supreme Court to delay Amona's Dec  25 evacuation until they have arranged a place for the 40 families to live.


My visit to Amona took place in the summer of 2009, and it looks like it will have been my one and only visit to the outpost. When I visited the contentious outpost, I had a feeling  it's life-span  would be cut short.  Truthfully, I did not imagine it would have survived to the end of 2016. At the same time, I can emphathise with the families who will lose their homes.They have lived in Amona for 20 years, long enough to have believed that the day would come when they  actually would be evicted,  let alone  being evicted on Chanukah, the festival of light. 


 Amona residents reached an agreement with the Israeli government for a voluntary evacuation. They  voted to accept a government deal whereby 24 families would remain on the mountain upon which Amona is situated, but on a nearby plot of land.  It appeared  that a violent showdown has been averted.

But there was one further complication. The organization Yesh Din has said that the families can not be relocated to  the nearby plot of land (plot #38) because it is not "absentee" land, whose owner is unknown. Yesh Din says it was contacted by a local Palestinian who owns this parcel of land and his claim is valid.Yesh Din planed to go to court to oppose the agreement to relocate the families to plot 38.

As a result, the government asked the Israeli Supreme Court to delay the evacuation of Amona by 45 days. The Court has agreed to delay the evacuation of Amona from the initial date of Dec 25 to Feb 8, 2017 to give the  government time to come up with a new plan for where to relocate the Amona settlers. The justices have warned that the extension is "final" and that its order to evacuate Amona will have to be carried out by Feb 8, 2017, regardless of whether or not the government has finalized a deal with Amona residents regarding where to relocate them.

The saga continues.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.