Amona evic­tion is only first step in ste in bibi's bat­tle

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

BEN­JAMIN NE­TANYAHU has done ev­ery­thing he can to pre­vent a rep­e­ti­tion of the first Amona evic­tion, which took place 11 years ago this week, on Fe­bru­ary 1, 2006.

Back then, hun­dreds of young set­tlers, seek­ing to pre­vent the de­mo­li­tion of nine il­le­gally-built homes, en­gaged in a pitched bat­tle with po­lice. Rocks were thrown from one side; ba­ton charges and mounted of­fi­cers came from the other. It ended in dozens of wounded and a long pe­riod of ac­ri­mony be­tween the set­tlers and Ehud Olmert’s gov­ern­ment.

On Wed­nes­day, thou­sands of po­lice walked up to Amona with empty hands, no hel­mets or body ar­mour. The set­tle­ment lead­ers had promised in ad­vance merely to “pas­sively re­sist” evac­u­a­tion, with­out vi­o­lence.

To a de­gree, it worked. Stones and, in one case, a sub­stance which could have been chlo­rine — or clean­ing fluid — were thrown at the of­fi­cers by some of the 500 young sup­port­ers who ar­rived overnight. But by and large, the re­sis­tance amounted to not much more than bouts of push­ing and a tem­po­rary ob­sta­cle-course. It looked bad on TV, but there were no se­ri­ous ca­su­al­ties this time around.

The po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions, how­ever, will be longer-last­ing.

The gov­ern­ment had no choice but to or­der the po­lice to go ahead. Count­less post­pone­ments had worn the High Court’s pa­tience thin. But the dis­man­tling of 40 homes built on pri­vately-owned Pales­tinian land will not be the end of the story. The High Court ruled on Wed­nes­day night that the plan to move the Amona set­tlers to ad­ja­cent plots could not go ahead be­cause of Pales­tinian claims to those sites. Mr Ne­tanyahu di­rected his of­fi­cials to im­me­di­ately be­gin prepa­ra­tions for build­ing a new set­tle­ment for the evac­uees.

Mr Ne­tanyahu, un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from the more right-wing el­e­ments in his coali­tion — Jewish Home Party and mem­bers of his own Likud — has au­tho­rised 3,000 new homes on the set­tle­ments, in ad­di­tion to the 2,500 au­tho­rised last week. But this will not be enough. To as­suage his an­gry coali­tion, he will also have to pass con­tro­ver­sial leg­is­la­tion.

The first stage will be on Mon­day, when the “Reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion Bill” is brought for its sec­ond and third read­ings. The law, which is de­signed to le­galise other sites in the West Bank which were built, like Amona, on pri­vate land, is a headache for Mr Ne­tanyahu. He has promised to whip the coali­tion to vote in favour but the At­tor­ney Gen­eral has al­ready said he will not de­fend it from the in­evitable chal­lenge in the High Court. Even if the jus­tices ap­prove the law, it could cause fur­ther trou­ble for Is­rael at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. And there are more laws down the road.

The set­tler lobby is con­vinced that now, with a friend­lier White House, is the mo­ment to go ahead with an­nex­a­tion of parts of the West Bank. A law to ex­tend Is­raeli sovereignty to Ma’ale Adu­mim, east of Jerusalem, is be­ing pre­pared. The prime min­is­ter has re­ceived an as­sur­ance that the bill will not be tabled be­fore he meets Mr Trump in two weeks, but the respite will be very short.

Fac­ing pos­si­ble crim­i­nal in­dict­ments, Mr Ne­tanyahu needs his coali­tion’s sup­port more than ever. For the right wing, the evac­u­a­tion of Amona is just a set­back as far as they are con­cerned. The real bat­tle will be in the Knes­set, where they plan to ex­act a heavy price for the prime min­is­ter’s po­lit­i­cal sur­vival.

PHOTO: FLASH 90

Amona res­i­dents man burn­ing bar­ri­cades ahead of the evic­tion on Wed­nes­day

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