By Alex Traiman
AMONA, West Bank — Residents of the 40-home West Bank settlement of Amona agreed to a last-minute government proposal to shift the community to an adjacent plot of land on which the Israeli government will build 52 permanent homes and additional infrastructure, in exchange for promises of a peaceful evacuation without protest.
Israel’s High Court of Justice had initially ordered to evacuate and demolish the existing settlement by Dec. 25.
Knesset legislators have been working to advance the proposed Regulations Law, which would legalize many outposts in order to avoid future evacuations. But Professor Efraim Inbar, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies think tank, told JNS that such a law “cannot be applied ex post facto to Amona” because there is already a High Court ruling in place.
In accepting the new proposal, which was a disappointment to more than 1,000 youths who had arrived at the hilltop to protest the impending demolition, residents said in a statement, “If in the next month the state lives up to its promise to build 52 houses and public structures, then the struggle will be crowned a success and Amona will stay on the hill. If the state does not keep its promises, we will not hesitate to start the fight again, with more grit and more strength.”
For several weeks, Israeli lawmakers had been conceiving various proposals in order to strike an agreement with the community and ensure a peaceful evacuation.
After residents rejected a previous proposal last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, stated, “I hear voices calling for violent opposition. There will be no understanding or tolerance for violence against security forces in the evacuation. But there will have to be empathy for those losing their homes.”
Israel Police intelligence had stated that they anticipated a violent evacuation of the community.
Eli Greenberg, the unofficial spokesman for Amona, had told JTA on Dec. 13, “We intend to make the evacuation the worst scenario possible and to film it.”
He stopped short of calling for violence, but said that “I cannot hold accountable anyone who starts freaking out because poeple are taking him out of his home. I don’t know how I will react when I see soldiers or policemen here at my door.”
Following the compromise, member of the opposition Tzipi Livni welcomed the prevention of a violent evacuation in Amona, but argued that the threat of violence would remain the sole legacy of the story.
“What will remain is that in the government of Israel, ‘might makes right.’”
This sentiment was echoed by the left-wing activisit group Peace Now, which stated: “In the Israel of 2016, the one who steals land and threatens violence achieves what he wants.”
Right-wing politicians and supporters of the settlement movement were quick to welcome the deal.
Ofir Sofer, secretary general of the National Union faction of the Jewish Home party, said:
“We congratulate and support the residents of Amona, who will remain on this hilltop and will continue their pioneering spirit that is ensuring the future of the entire settlement movement.”
Back in 2006, nine permanent, yet uninhabited homes in Amona were destroyed by order of the High Court.
Yet thousands of protestors came to the site to block the demolition, and the government, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, sent riot police to disperse the crowd.
More than 200 protesters — including Knesset members — were injured, with several protesters needing to be airlifted to Jerusalem hospitals.
The status of illegal outposts in Israel — many, like Amona, that have been in existence for more than 20 years — has called into question Israel’s sovereignty over contested tracts of land that have persisted as enduring points of contention in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
TPS contributed to this story.