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Right-wing Israeli ministers call to 'legalize' Amona outpost

Sept. 19, 2016 9:39 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 20, 2016 11:39 A.M.)
Israeli forces talk with Jewish settlers from the Esh Kodesh outpost as they stage a sit-in to prevent Palestinians from working in their fields, Jan. 2, 2013. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A law proposed on Sunday by 24 right-wing Israeli ministers, deputy ministers, and members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, called for the retroactive legalization of Amona outpost, which has been slated for destruction by the state of Israel.

A statement from 24 of the 30 Knesset members, ministers, and deputy ministers of Israel’s right-wing Likud party advocated to bypass a 2008 Israeli Supreme Court ruling that ordered to evacuate the outpost’s residents on grounds that its construction was carried out on privately owned Palestinian land, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

After years of appeals from right-wing Israeli government officials, and attempts by Amona settlers to prove they had legally purchased the land, an Israeli police investigation in May 2014 found the entirety of the outpost to have been built on private Palestinian lands, and that the documents used by Amona residents to try claim their "purchases" were in fact forged.

In December 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered again that the outpost be demolished by Dec. 25.

Among the signatories to the statement are National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Zeev Elkin, as well as ministers Gilad Erdan, Yariv Levin, Haim Katz, Miri Regev, Ofir Akunis and Gila Gamliel, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, coalition chairman David Bitan, and deputy ministers Tzipi Hotovely, Ayoub Kara and Yaron Mazuz.

The proposed law would “legally regulate” the houses in question and would “prevent the moral, human and social distortion that would be created by evicting hundreds and thousands of families who have built their houses with the support and assistance of successive governments of Israel,” Haaretz quoted the statement as saying.

According to the newspaper, passage of the law would be “unlikely” and would encounter major opposition in the Israeli Supreme Court, as it would require retroactively legalizing construction on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman enraged advocates of legalizing Amona after he said last week that "There is no way that Amona can be left as it is built today, because most of the houses are built on private Palestinian land.”

The proposal of the 24 ministers came as the latest effort by Israeli authorities, who have scrambled for a solution for residents of the outpost.

In August, Israeli authorities proposed leasing private Palestinian land whose owners were residing outside of the West Bank in order to transfer the settlers there.

However, residents in the area submitted an objection to the plan, saying that the so-called “absentee land” was in fact owned by several families who were physically residing in the area.

While the more than 232 settler outposts in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government -- despite authorities commonly retroactively legalizing the outposts -- each of the some 196 Israeli government-approved settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank are also considered illegal under international law.
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