Israeli police evacuated more than 200 Israeli settlers Wednesday from the West Bank outpost of Amona, dragging families with young children out of the illegal community that was built more than a decade ago.
Three-thousand officers carried out the long-postponed evacuation, scuffling with the teenagers along the way. Sixty officers were injured and 13 protesters arrested, according to a police statement.
Amona is a small community at the top of a hill in the West Bank. It neighbors the large settlement of Ofra, and the Palestinian villages Silwad and Taybeh. The legal status of the outpost has been at the heart of a heated controversy between settlers, Palestinians, and the Israeli government for years. And, we are now witnessing the final episode.
The row over Amona began in summer 2005 when the Israeli human rights group Peace Now petitioned Israel’s High Court to prevent permanent status for Amona, which would make the settlement legal under Israeli law—but still in violation of International law. At that time it was known that Amona was built without the necessary legal permits from the Israeli government, and on privately owned Palestinian land.
A first evacuation took place in February 2006.
Thousands of protesters clashed with Israeli authorities. It is remembered as a deep trauma in this community. Soon after, they rebuilt in violation of the court.
In 2008 the Israeli legal rights group Yesh Din filed a second petition to the Supreme Court to again evict the settlement, this time in the name of the Palestinian land owners. Jurists ruled against the settlers, although they delayed the razing of settlement until summer 2013.
Yet the ruling was never implemented and the settlers continued to reside in Amona.
In December 2014 Amona was back in litigation. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered the state to completely evacuate and demolish the settlement within the next two years.
For more than a decade the debate about Amona has been filtered through various points of views, leading to a climax of antagonism within the Israeli society between those in support of settlements and national organization actively against the settlements, and the rest of the society.
With this most recent evacuation it may seem that justice prevailed in favor of the original Palestinian landowners, but for many, it is not a victory. Evicting Amona residents was not a sacrifice made by the state, as the larger colonial policy will resettle them elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory.
The Israeli government announced ongoing construction since the start of this year for a series of massive new settlement housing units. In fact, more than 6,000 have been approved.
Amona residents will ultimately be relocated in adjacent plots of land, which also belong to Palestinians. Yesh Din lawyers are already helping the owners prepare for court on those tracks.
Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he started the process of establishing a new settlement “as soon as possible” to replace the demolished Amona homes.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported the construction could happen as soon as within the next two months. If this occurs, the new town would become the first official new settlement established in more than 20 years. Other settlements built in the last two decades with government approval were classified as expansions to pre-existing settlements and not altogether new localities.