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News You Can Use: Evacuation of Amona Settlement

Jan 5, 2017
By: Yael Steinberg, Associate Director of Education, Hasbara Fellowships

What: Israel gave a final time extension to the town of Amona and is expected to evacuate and demolish the West Bank community on February 8, 2017, because it was built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land. The Israeli government will be relocating the 40 families living in Amona to neighboring communities that are built on Israeli owned land. In 2014 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Palestinian landowners, awarding 300,000 shekels ($85,700) in compensation for their losses.

The Supreme Court judges weighing in on the case in 2014 stated: "These structures were built on privately owned land so there is no possibility of authorizing their construction, even retroactively. The military commander of Judea and Samaria must act decisively to protect the private property of residents who are under his protection, including protection from the usurpation of and illegal construction on their lands. This illegal construction on private land requires giving the highest priority to the enforcement of work stoppage and demolition orders.

In early December 2016, Israel’s Knesset took steps towards legalizing 55 communities built on privately owned Palestinian lands, with full compensation paid to Palestinian landowners. The plan will hopefully avoid future evacuations of communities like Amona. Israel has offered to have international observers determine what “full and adequate compensation” will mean.  

The new Knesset ruling and relocation of Amona residents to nearby communities is drawing international criticism by those who oppose Israel claim to any of the post 1967 Jewish communities over the Green Line. The Israeli Foreign ministry has responded that “the settlements are not the obstacle to peace.”

The discussion surrounding Amona is a controversial issue for Israelis. Many Israelis disagree ideologically with the forcible removal of Jews from their homes and fear the precedent that the decision sets.  There are those that have criticized what they see as exorbitant compensation to the residents of Amona by the Israeli government. Still others fear the resulting Knesset legislation, inspired by the situation with Amona, and what that means for Palestinian landowners in the future. .

No matter what your opinion is on the demolition of Amona, there are a few main messages that we can take from the headlines for the benefit of campus Israel advocacy.  

Take aways for campus messaging:

In the wake of the UN Security Council's decision declaring Israeli settlements “illegal,” it becomes increasingly important to reiterate that settlements are not the obstacle to peace. In fact, the Israeli government has shown a commitment to removing settlements that are actually illegal or on privately owned Palestinian land.

Israel's detractors say that building within Israeli communities over the Green Line shows a commitment to permanence, which is representative of Israel's unwillingness to negotiate. This simply is not true. Just like the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, demolishing Amona, while painful for many Israelis both ideologically and logistically, shows that Israel is in fact prepared, and able, to remove Israeli settlements should they need to. In the case of an eventual two state solution with mutually agreed upon borders, Israel might be in the position of exchanging land for peace, and may have to once again relocate Israelis. Removing the Amona settlement, while painful, is an example of impermanence.

When discussing Palestinian rights in Israel, it is important to differentiate between Israeli-Arab Palestinians and Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority (PA.) When anti-Israel detractors declare that Palestinians do not have rights in Israel they are often referring to the rights of Palestinians living under the governance of the PA. It is true that citizens under the two different governments do not have the same rights, (all Israeli citizens have equal rights.) Even so, Palestinians under the PA do have certain rights within Israel, including the right to petition the Supreme Court. In fact, the court case against Amona was brought to the Israeli Supreme Court by Palestinian landowners who live under the Palestinian Authority, not by Israeli citizens.

The evacuation of Amona shows the Israeli commitment to upholding the law and strengthening human rights. Israel is not perfect but is willing to rectify mistakes, even at the expense of ruling against Israeli citizens. The Amona decision is one of many examples of Israeli Supreme Court cases that have ruled in the favor of justice rather than biases based on ethnicity, nationality, or religion.

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