Barkat: “One Law for Amona, Eastern Jerusalem”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited Amona on Sunday to advocate for the so-called “legalization bill,” the controversial measure intended to retroactively authorize communities like Amona, which were originally built without government authorization and which the High Court of Justice has ruled was built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The bill is currently being debated by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
Barkat’s visit followed a protest by several dozens of Amona residents earlier in the day, supported by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, in front of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Barkat expressed his frustration with the High Court of Justice, saying the Court’s ruling that the unauthorized community must be dismantled by December 25 did not permit the Knesset legislative power to properly legislate the issue in manner that would take into account all implications for both Jews and Arabs.
“There should not be one law for Jews and a different one for Arabs, but rather one law for all,” Barkat stated. “We currently have two options: One, to allow the Knesset to change the law to permit some leeway and discretion for the government to provide for alternatives that will take into account realities on the ground.
“However, should the eviction be applied according to the High Court of Justice ruling, then the law would have to be enforced in the areas in East Jerusalem where proprietorship in still unregulated at this point, the same way as it would be enforced for Amona and Ofra homes.”
Barkat’s visit to Amona takes place under the cloud of a brewing fight between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and right-wing ministers. The clash bubbled over on Sunday afternoon when Education Minister Naftali Bennett insisted on a vote for the “legalization bill” at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, in support of Amona’s protest.
“The moment of truth is here. Don’t run away. Stand up today and ratify the law. Make history today for Amona, for Ofra, for Netiv HaAvot and for all Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria,” the protesters said in a statement.
With the approaching December 25 deadline for the eviction of Amona residents from their homes, Netanyahu and senior coalition leaders asked Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to postpone the ruling for seven months.
Netanyahu said prior to the committee meeting today, “The Attorney General clearly stated that calling a vote on the ‘legalization bill to a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation before the Court has a chance to respond on the postponement request risks seriously harming the prospect of said postponement.”
Netanyahu also claimed that there would be time left prior to December to raise the “legalization bill” for a vote, should the request for a postponement be refused by the Court. He therefore said he would discuss the relevant options with coalition heads.
Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev called Netanyahu’s behavior “boyish,” and Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich defended Bennett by stating Netanyahu attacked the Education Minister in order to create a “political buffer” between himself and supporters of the bill.
“Most of the Likud MKs support and are committed to the bill […] I suggest the Prime Minister to stop acting as a troublemaker and support the bill,” he claimed.
After the heated discussion, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stated that despite Netanyahu’s demand, the “legalization bill” would be brought to a vote on Sunday evening, a move that will force Likud ministers to choose between ideological engagements and allegiance to Netanyahu.