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Amona settlers threaten to renew fight against evacuation of the illegal outpost

Jan. 24, 2017 12:27 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 24, 2017 5:24 P.M.)
Israeli security forces talk with Jewish settlers from the Esh Kodesh settlement on Jan. 2, 2013. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Amona have threatened to renew their fight against imminent evacuation if Israeli lawmakers do not push through legislation to retroactively legalize all settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, as a nearby outpost meanwhile began unauthorized expansion, Israeli media reported on Monday.

Amona has been slated for demolition by the Israeli Supreme Court for being built on private Palestinian land in the central occupied West Bank, although the court agreed in December to postpone the evacuation of the outpost to Feb. 8 in order to give additional time for the Israeli government to provide alternative housing for its residents.

While the extension had been agreed to on the condition that Amona’s residents cease to oppose the eviction, the settlers sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday stating that they were resuming their fight against the evacuation of Amona, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The letter threatened that only the passage of the settlement “Legalization bill” with a clause including the legalization of Amona would prevent a confrontation, as the settlers complained that not enough had been done yet to prepare for their relocation.

“We have no choice but to renew our public battle with full force and to call on thousands of supporters to come to Amona,” the letter read.

In November, Israeli ministers advanced the “Legalization bill,” which would see thousands of dunams of privately-owned Palestinian land seized in addition to the Israeli government’s recognition of dozen of illegal settlement outposts.

However, Netanyahu backtracked on his support of the bill on Sunday, arguing that it was an “irresponsible move” which had prompted a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements and reaffirming their complete illegality under international law.

The postponement of Amona’s evacuation came in response to a government request for additional time to build alternative settler housing on a plot of land near the illegal outpost, where dozens of housing units are supposed to be constructed for the evacuees.

However, this area of land has also been claimed as the private property of several Palestinian landowners in nearby villages.

Israeli rights group Yesh Din, which is appealing the government relocation plan, has said that "the state is not concealing the fact that there is currently no plan for transferring the Amona settlers and therefore the only aim of a delay is to try to find how the law can be circumvented."

Meanwhile, the outpost of Ofra located near Amona has recently begun expanding without obtaining permission from the Israeli government, Haaretz reported, noting that ten to twenty mobile homes were set up in the span of a week without permits, in addition to another ten caravans the Israeli government had approved for the relocation of some of Amona’s residents.

Nine homes in Ofra are also slated for evacuation by February, as Ofra settlers reportedly announced that they were planning a hunger strike outside the Israeli Knesset to obtain government recognition.

Rights groups have highlighted that, while the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also built in direct violation of international law.

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right.

More than half of the ministers in the current Israeli government have publicly stated their opposition to a Palestinian state and advocated for annexation of the West Bank.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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