Israeli government to ask Supreme Court for 30 extra days to evacuate Amona outpost

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers from his party that the government will ask Israel’s Supreme Court to delay by 30 days the evacuation of the Amona outpost.

Later on Sunday, Netanyahu told the Cabinet: “We are working overtime to find a responsible solution to the issue of Amona and for similar cases in the future. We are working to reach a rational solution and I expect all of you, ministers and lawmakers, to respect it. We must act responsibly and prudently here for a common goal: To defend settlement, and to defend the court. We are working in both spheres.”

Netanyahu’s remarks came after a marathon four-hour meeting over a controversial bill to legalize some unauthorized West Bank outposts, especially targeting Amona, with Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home Party, which proposed the so-called Regulation Bill.

Bennett posted on social media late Saturday night that no resolution had been arrived at.

The bill has been submitted in two forms, one with a clause that retroactively legalized Amona, which the Supreme Court determined was built on private Palestinian land and required to be razed by Dec. 25, and one that does not. Amona is home to some 40 families.

Netanyahu said Sunday that a bill legalizing West Bank outposts cannot change a ruling of the Supreme Court.

Under the bill, the government would pay the Palestinian landowners large sums of money and give them new property in exchange for their land.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said the legislation violates international law and he could not defend it before the Supreme Court.

On Oct. 31, the State Attorney’s Office asked for a delay of seven months from the Dec. 25 deadline to evacuate Amona, saying it could not arrange alternative housing for the residents before the target date. The government indicated at the time of the request that it would go ahead with the demolition of the settlement on time if required. The request was denied.

The bill had been scheduled to come up for a vote of the Knesset plenum on Monday. That vote reportedly has been postponed to Wednesday.

Netanyahu released a letter sent to him Saturday night by the spokesman for the Amona residents. “In the case that heavy machinery arrives to remove us from the mountain, we and our children will block the bulldozers with our bodies. We are calling on all our supporters to join the struggle,” the letter said.

The military plans to move the families temporarily to an area nearby of “abandoned” Palestinian land, for eight months, when a permanent solution is set to be found.

“It’s simply idiotic that the state would spend 50 million shekels on this, for eight months, after which Amona’s residents will be expelled yet again,” the letter said. “The State of Israel will have left behind people who have been expelled twice, wasted 50 million shekels and scarred a mountain.” Fifty million shekel is about $13 million.

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