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February 2, 2017
Earlier this week, hundreds of Israeli police officers and soldiers carried out an Israeli High Court order to evict Jewish wildcat settlers from the Amona outpost in the West Bank. The settlers have long insisted that they built their homes on unclaimed land and should therefore be able to make it their own. Though the Israeli courts disagreed, many politicians and right-wing observers expressed support for the settlers. Other Israeli commentators have respected the court’s decision while expressing sympathy for the displaced (though compensated) families. But the eviction may have earned the Palestinians only a short reprieve from further Israeli expansion within the Occupied Territories, as the Netanyahu government simultaneously announced the construction of new settlements elsewhere in the West Bank.
The conflicted feelings of some Israeli observers are in full display in this op-ed by Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth, who, commenting on the eviction of the Jewish settlers, points out that “[i]t is legitimate to not love the High Court's decision, but illegitimate to not accept it. The State of Israel survives because of the strength of its military, law and inhabitants. Yes, its inhabitants, including those who chose to live in Amona because of their Zionism and Judaism....Israel is too small for a civil war. The Amona eviction on Wednesday was also not a formative event, but rather a specific instance. Amona inhabitants may have lost the battle but not the war. The fact of the matter is, the Amona residents are also us....But not even the court contradicted the principle that the Jews have a right to settle in the land of Israel. The court did not refute this principle in its ruling, but rather was forced to decide against the residents because of legal issues, without connection to this or that historical right....The big problem is that the Amona eviction brings us nowhere.”
Similar complicated feelings are on display in an op-ed for the Yedioth Ahronoth by Yedidia Stern, who argues that both the left and the right should have reason for sympathizing with the human drama of people being uprooted from their homes: “Amona has been evacuated, and the Israelis have divided into the obvious camps: Exultation and joy on one side, sadness and pain on the other. If your wear right-wing glasses, the destruction of the small community is a ‘difficult and sad day,’ as the public security minister put it. On the other hand, if you wear left-wing glasses, the evacuation of the small community—finally!—is seen as a cause for celebration....In a more mature world, of complex people, there should be contradicting feelings of sadness and joy in the hearts of each and every one of us, both rightists and leftists. The Right, alongside its obvious pain, should be glad and proud of the nation state for succeeding in implementing the rule of law, even if it contradicts the Right’s political plan....The Left, alongside its obvious satisfaction, should internalize the human and simple demand, which originally referred to enemies—‘don’t rejoice when your brother falls’.”
Ben-Dror Yemini, writing for Ynet, argues that the eviction of the settlers was political, rather than legal. Yemini goes on to claim that the settlers had built on “barren” land without any claims of ownership: “The evacuation of Amona is justified. But the fact that the evacuation is justified doesn’t stem from anyone’s disinheritance from their land. They settled on rocky ground. No one proved ownership over that land and no one worked that land. They made the wilderness flourish. They did it, no one else. They built a glorious community. But even back then they were informed that the outpost was illegal. The political passion, the faith in the Greater Land of Israel, overrode any government order and any administrative order against the construction. For with clever strategy you wage your war....So why is the evacuation justified nonetheless? Because it’s not a legal issue. It’s mainly a political issue. Does the national, Zionist interest justify settling outside the settlement blocs too? Do we want a solution of one big state? Do we want an entity that will turn either into an apartheid state or into a bi-national or Arab state? These are the options. This is what is being offered to us by anyone who supports the outposts or the expansion of construction beyond the settlement blocs.”
Others have taken a different perspective on the development, with some Orthodox religious writers, like Arutz Sheva’s Barouch Levy, trusting that ultimate victory is on their side: “all those who either have favored, acted to bring this about, or have actually participated in the destruction of the Jewish residences there, should understand that all their efforts are basically for naught. This is because the irrefutable reality, which Amona represents, will forever remained unchanged. Today, as yesterday and for thousands of earlier yesterdays, Amona, Israel, belongs to G-d....At this hour, probably most of Amona has been laid waste...The Jews will be back in Amona, as well as in the rest of parts of the Land of Israel, where their presence is prevented by those who are similar to those who destroyed Amona.”
Such comments are not limited to the pages of far-right newspapers. According to a report by Jerusalem Post’s Byudi Shaham, the head of the Bayit Yehudi political party, Naftali Bennett, expressed his view on the floor of the Knesset that “[t]he evacuation of the Amona outpost will eventually lead to the application of Israeli sovereignty in the whole of the West Bank…. ‘From the ruins of Amona we will build a new settlement,’ Bennett, the education minister, told the plenum....’The ‘settlement [regulation] bill’ that will be passed next week will end the court-led system of displacement,’ he continued. The legislation that is to go to final votes on Monday night would retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes built on what the courts have ruled is private Palestinian property in Area C of the West Bank.... ‘We came to Amona, looked in the eyes of the residents and told them that we know that this campaign is against all odds. But we did not give up. Unfortunately, our fight for Amona did not succeed,’ he said. ‘We lost the battle, but we are winning the war’."
Even as the dismantling of Amona was taking place, the Israeli government announced major new settlement construction in the West Bank. This article published by the Palestinian Maan News, elaborates: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday evening that he had taken preliminary steps to establish a new illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank to house settlers residing in Amona, on the same day as Israeli forces evacuating the illegal outpost faced violent resistance....According to the Israeli newspaper, if carried to fruition, the plan would lead to the creation of the first new settlement officially established by the Israeli government in more than two decades. Netanyahu’s announcement came mere hours after the Israeli Supreme Court overruled a plan to relocate the Amona settlers to plots of land nearby, which also happened to be privately owned Palestinian property....In January, Netanyahu also pledged to lift all restrictions on settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem and to advance settlement expansion in the West Bank. More than 6,000 housing units have been approved for construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank by the Israeli government since the beginning of 2017.”
Netanyahu’s announcement provoked an immediate rebuke by the Jordanian government and others, with the former characterizing the move, according to a Wafa report, as a “provocation”: “The government of Jordan condemned on Thursday the Israeli government’s decision to build thousands of housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank. Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad Momani said in a press statement that the announcement “provokes the sentiments of the Arabs and Muslims.” He also described the announcement as in violation of international law and that Israel could face international isolation as a result, citing an example United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. The Jordanian spokesman also stressed that Israel should not change the status quo that exists in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.”
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