Amona eviction is only first step in ste in bibi's battle
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.
Amona residents man burning barricades ahead of the eviction on Wednesday