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Israel set to approve compensation package for residents of illegal Amona outpost

Dec. 10, 2016 11:56 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 11, 2016 1:23 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As the demolition date of Israel’s illegal Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank fast approaches, the Israeli government is expected to approve a compensation package for its soon-to-be evacuated residents, Israeli media reported on Saturday.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the Israeli government will soon approve a compensation package for residents of the illegal outpost who are to be evacuated on Dec. 25 in line with an Israeli Supreme Court ruling.

The Amona outpost, where at least 40 Israeli settler families reside, was slated for demolition in 2008 after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Palestinians who privately own the land on which Amona was built.

Channel 2 reported that the residents are expected to receive compensation which will include the value of the home that will be demolished, with each home possibly exceeding 500,000 shekels ($130,511), according to estimations.

Right-wing Israeli officials have organized for years to prevent the demolition of the outpost and have scrambled to find an alternative housing solution for the current residents, including proposals to lease privately held Palestinian land whose owners reside outside of the West Bank, build a new settlement for the evacuees near the already-established settlement of Shiloh in Nablus, and an attempt to introduce a bill that could retroactively legalize the outpost.

Meanwhile, the so-called "Legalization bill" passed its first reading in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday, which would see dozens of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank retroactively legalized. However, a clause demanding that the Amona outpost be retroactively legalized was removed from the bill.

Despite the efforts by Israeli authorities to placate Amona's residents, the settlers have vowed to “nonviolently” resist the government demolition, and have “built shelters, bathrooms, and a large kitchen to host thousands of supporters they hope will join them in their struggle to stay put.”

Last month, the Israeli settlers also pledged to resist the Supreme Court-sanctioned demolition, with the spokesperson for the Amona outpost, Avihai Boaron, quoted in the Jerusalem Post at the time as saying that the settlers would “stand here like a bulwark,” and called for those who supported the outpost’s resistance to construct a tent city at the outpost as a protest demonstration.

The Jerusalem Post also quoted a resident of Amona, Tamar Nizri, who said during the meeting that it was “a crime to pull people from their homes.”

“We want justice and that is the law that should exist here,” she said, while adding that Israeli soldiers should not follow the orders given by the Supreme Court. “Hitler’s soldiers were also just following orders,” she said.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman released a statement last month urging the residents not to resist the demolitions for the sake of avoiding dragging the Israeli army into “a political event,” as Israeli politicians fear the government evacuation could erupt into clashes with government forces and settlers.

A number of families have also approached the nearby Israeli Ofra settlement to ask for alternative housing amid calls to resist the demolition in Amona. Sources told Haaretz that at least 20 families have approached Ofra about housing, while another source claimed that at least five families have sought alternative housing solutions in the Ofra settlement.

The Israeli government has continued to be embroiled in conflict over the Supreme Court ruling, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat last month warning that any dismantlement of the illegal Israeli outpost would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking Israeli-issued building permits in occupied East Jerusalem.

While the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government -- despite authorities commonly retroactively legalizing the outposts, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank are also constructed in direct violation of international law.

As the Legalization bill advances toward becoming law, members of the international community have criticized Israel for its settlement expansion and disregard for international law.

British Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood expressed his “extreme concern” over the bill on Friday, according to Palestinian Wafa News Agency. “This [bill] would be illegal under international law, and once again calls into question the Israeli government’s commitment to a two state solution,” Tobias said in a statement.

On Friday, Norway joined several other countries to denounce the bill, with the Norwegian Foreign Ministry saying that the law "casts doubts about Israel's declared support for the two-state solution," while Germany's foreign ministry stated that they were "extremely concerned about this development," and added that the proposed legislation violates international law.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development spokesman said Thursday that "Just like all settlement-related activity, this appropriation would be illegal according to international law," adding that "The adoption of such a law would constitute a grave attack on the viability of the two-State solution -- the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
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