Amona, Mateh Binyamin

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Amona (Hebrew: עמונה‎) is an Israeli outpost in the central West Bank. Located on a hill overlooking Ofra within the municipal boundaries of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, the village was founded in 1995 on privately owned Palestinian land. As of 2012, its population was around 200.[1] As of October 2013, the outpost lodged 42 families.[2]

It is usually categorized as an outpost since its construction was never officially approved by the Israeli government, even though several separate government ministries have contributed to its growth. The High Court of Israel ruled in 2006 that the settlement is illegal under Israeli law,[3] but as of March 2013, its status remained unresolved as the Israeli government continued to fight the court's eviction order. The international community considers all Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this.[4]

Its name is derived from the Book of Joshua 18:24, where it is named Kfar HaAmmonai, literally, Village of the Amonites.

Amona

Background[edit]

Amona was founded in late 1995[5] on privately owned Palestinian land by young settlers as an offshoot of Ofra.[3] It was one of the first outposts. Amona was built near the settlement of Ofra, entirely constructed on property belonging to Palestinians from Silwad. Although the settlers claim that the site was a rocky hilltop before, most of the land had been cultivated and worked by the Palestinians until the outpost was erected, according to a Civil Administration document.[6]

Amona has become highly symbolic,[7] revealing the role in the settlement enterprise of the settlement movement, the Israeli State and the Court. Already in 1997, the first demolition order was issued, followed by another one in 2003. In 2006, settlers were evacuated, but only nine permanent buildings were razed. In 2008, the state said that construction on the site was illegal and announced that the entire outpost would be razed. In 2011, the announcement was repeated, but as of October 2013 the outpost was still there.[8]

2005 petition[edit]

In 2004, the Amana settlement organisation completed the construction of nine permanent homes at Amona, all built illegally on privately owned land and appropriately registered to Palestinians. In October 2004, the Civil Administration ordered the demolition of the structures. On 3 July 2005, Peace Now petitioned the Israeli High Court charging Israeli authorities with failing to implement stop-work orders at the site, and with failing to implement demolition orders issues in October 2004. In November 2005, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the demolition by the end of January 2006.[5]

Evacuation[edit]

A Jewish home in Amona before the destruction by Israeli forces. The sign reads, "Every house destroyed is a victory to Hamas."

On 1 February 2006, settlers and protesters were evacuated, attended with unprecedented clashes. 10,000 Israel Police, Israel Border Police, and Israel Defense Forces troops appeared in Amona to carry out the demolition and to secure the troops involved in the operation. They faced an estimated 4,000 Israeli protesters, one thousand actively protesting inside and around the houses, and another few thousand in the surrounding area. The protesters mostly consisted of youths from across the country, but especially from nearby settlements and schools, some of which had fortified themselves inside the homes and on the roofs in an effort to block, delay, or protest the order being carried out. Over 300 people were injured, including about 80 security personnel. Among the injured were three Knesset members.[9] After several hours, the houses were demolished.

Parliamentary inquiry[edit]

In March 2006, the Knesset parliamentary inquiry into the events at Amona determined that security forces had employed excessive brutality, striking protesters with clubs and charging them with horses. Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra was criticised for preventing police commanders from testifying at the hearings. The committee also found contradictions in the testimonies of the Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and the Internal Security Minister. Despite these findings, no resignations followed. In May 2006 Israeli President Moshe Katsav met with some of the protesters injured at Amona and stated that he would ask for a renewal of the investigation.

Many on both the left and the right warned of the danger of repetitions of the tragedy of Amona if the Realignment plan was put into action.

2008 petition[edit]

In 2008, the Israeli non-governmental organization Yesh Din petitioned on behalf of the Palestinian landowners the Court in a demand to demolish the entire outpost. The State repeatedly requested delay. On 28 April 2013, the Supreme Court granted a last postponement of the evacuation until 15 July 2013.[10][11]

As the settlers contended they purchased some of the land in the meantime through the company Al-Watan, the High Court again postponed the execution of the ruling. The Court ordered that on 24 July only the uncontested homes and part of the access road should be torn down, pending a petition by the settlers before the Jerusalem Magistrates Court.[12][13] While only one Palestinian owner petitioned the court, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein instructed the army to demolish only one building.[14] At a High Court hearing on 20 August 2013, the state’s attorney said that she believed the 24 July ruling applied only to those Amona residents whose names were attached to the petition.[15]

Meanwhile, Yesh Din filed another petition, demanding the demolition of some 30 structures that were not evacuated.[16] The Court confirmed that the case was against the entire outpost and that all structures (except the 16 contested homes) should be removed.[2] On 14 October 2013, the state asked the court for a new postponement, to prevent "harm of Israel’s diplomatic interests", and because there is "no concrete petitioner"[8] (because it was a general claim). While previously, evacuation was linked to illegal settlement on privately owned Palestinian land, this was the first time in the last few years that the state had spoken of the outpost evacuation within diplomatic terms. Commentators suggested that this move alluded to the current peace negotiations. The state also feared a precedent for other cases.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Matthew Bell (29 March 2012), "Future of Israel’s Amona Settlement Outpost Uncertain", The World 
  2. ^ a b c State: Demolition of Amona diplomatically harmful. Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, 15 October 2013
  3. ^ a b Motti Inbari, Jewish Fundamentalism and the Temple Mount: Who Will Build the Third Temple?, pp. 167–168. SUNY Press, 2009
  4. ^ "The Geneva Convention". BBC News. 10 December 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Americans for Peace Now (APN), Settlements in Focus - Vol. 2, Issue 3: Amona Redux. 20 February 2006
  6. ^ Chaim Levinson, Much of Amona outpost built on cultivated Palestinian land, Civil Administration says. Haaretz, 22 August 2013.
  7. ^ Chaim Levinson, 'Illegal West Bank outpost to be razed by end of 2012, Barak decides,'. Haaretz, 1 November 2011:'Over the last few days, Amona settlers have informed Eitan Broshi, the Defense Ministry's adviser on settlement issues, that they are seeking to buy the land. They previously said they had already purchased the land, but those claims were not substantiated. Amona, which was built on private Palestinian land and houses some 50 Jewish families, has become one of the symbols of the settlement movement in recent years.'
  8. ^ a b The Amona complex. Haaretz, 16 October 2013
  9. ^ [1] Arutz Sheva - Hundreds Injured in Brutal Demolition of Nine Jewish Homes
  10. ^ Yesh Din, 28 April 2013, High Court of Justice Sets July 15, 2013 ...
  11. ^ Tovah Lazaroff, High Court delays Amona evacuation until July 15. Jerusalem Post, 28 April 2013
  12. ^ Tovah Lazaroff, High Court delays evacuation of West Bank outpost Amona. Jerusalem Post, 12 July 2013
  13. ^ Tovah Lazaroff, A-G to PM: Prioritize home demolitions on private Palestinian property. Jerusalem Post, 19 July 2013
  14. ^ Chaim Levinson, Israel's AG postpones evacuation of 30 houses in Amona outpost. Haaretz, 19 July 2013
  15. ^ Tovah Lazaroff, Amona outpost homes now in High Court’s hands. Jerusalem Post, 21 August 2013
  16. ^ Yesh Din, Yesh Din today filed a motion .... 30 July 2013

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°57′08″N 35°16′37″E / 31.95214°N 35.27686°E / 31.95214; 35.27686