New Compromise Agreement Approved by Amona Residents
Amona residents approved on Sunday afternoon the new compromise deal offered by the government. Forty five residents voted in favor, 25 opposed and two abstentions.
Following the vote, residents released a statement temporarily suspending their struggle against demolition for the moment, and said they would give Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office a chance carry through on promises made in the terms of the agreement.
“Two years ago, the High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of our homes. Since then we have waged a Sisyphean, determined, ongoing battle to save our homes and our community. After 20 years of pioneering settlement, against all odds and after two long years, we have decided to suspend our struggle at this time and to accept the decision of the government to build 52 houses and public buildings for Amona. These buildings will serve the needs of residents and the community.
“We will continue to stand guard and to follow the state’s compliance with the commitments it has made to build homes and public buildings in Amona. We thank the thousands of families, teenagers and activists who came to Amona in recent days. In your merit, Amona will remain on the map and with God’s help will continue to grow and flourish. If the state does not fulfill its commitments to us we will not hesitate to renew our struggle immediately, for our community and for the entire settlement enterprise. Amona shall not fall again,” the residents said.
According to the new relocation deal, a total of 24 families out of 40 will be able to move to an adjacent plot regulated as “absentee property” on the hill, not covered by the Court’s ruling instead of the 12 proposed in the previous proposal. The state will submit to the High Court of Justice its request to postpone by 30 days the evacuation of the community ordered by December 25 in order to be able to implement this new blueprint.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had stated at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday morning that the government had “done the maximum” in order to provide a creative solution for Amona and had reiterated his hopes that the residents would agree to the new deal.
Amona’s Rabbi Yair Frank stated that the community residents all held mixed feelings of resolution and pain. “Though the deal presented by the government was terrible, the question remained what would have been worse. The ‘Legalization Bill was permitted to be legislated thanks to Amona residents, and I see no valid reason why our community was not incorporated within it,” he claimed. He further vowed that should the government not fulfill its promises with regards to the construction of 52 housing units for Amona, the residents would not relocate and would be “compelled to resume its fight.”
Member of the Opposition and Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni welcomed the prevention of a violent evacuation in Amona, but argued that the threat of violence would remain the sole legacy of the story, “what will remain is that in government of Israel, ‘might makes right’.” This sentiment was reverberated by the activist group “Peace Now,” who stated that: “In the Israel of 2016, the one who steals land and threatens violence achieves what he wants.”
After the rejection of the prior proposal by Amona residents, the Israel Police intelligence had stated they anticipated a violent evacuation of the community as the residents no longer held control over what was happening in the community.
Right-wing politicians and supporters of the settlement movement were quick to welcome the vote. Ofir Sofer, secretary general of the National Union faction of the Jewish Home party said “we congratulate and support the residents of Amona, who will remain on this hilltop and will continue their pioneering spirit that is ensuring the future of the entire settlement movement. In their merit, the entire settlement enterprise, including thousands of homes around Judea and Samaria, will continue to flourish. Their strong stance in recent months to ensure that no Jewish community in Judea and Samaria will be demolished deserves our strongest praise.
“We congratulate you that even at this difficult moment, you made a courageous, difficult decision from healthy considerations for the people of Israel and the Land of Israel,” Sofer said.
MK Bezalel Smotrich added “The people of Amona are people of hope. Over the past few Amona residents insisted on hanging on to hope that the entire settlement enterprise would be legalized and that they would be able to remain on this hill. Their just demand infected the entire government and led to the passing of the [first stages of] the Legalization Law… created a new reality on the ground.”
Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan also praised Amona residents, saying the decision was a “courageous” one that served the best interests of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.
“The legalization of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will finally be equal to those of Israeli citizens in Be’er Sheva, Hadera, Tel Aviv and elsewhere. There is no question that this accomplishment that was brokered by the Jewish Home party would not have been accomplished without the Amona residents’ struggle,” Ben-Dahan said.