Amona outpost residents approve last-minute peaceful evacuation deal

Residents of the Amona West Bank outpost approved a last-minute deal to stave off a large-scale forceful evacuation by the Israeli government.

On Dec. 17, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Jewish Home political party, met with Amona families to offer them a deal that would build 24 homes on the same hilltop where they currently live and assist the other 16 families in finding homes nearby.

The residents voted 45 in favor and 25 opposed with two abstentions to approve the deal.

 The offer came after residents on Dec. 15 voted 58-20 against a deal that would have seen about a dozen families relocated to another plot on the hill and the rest resettled in the nearby settlement of Ofra.

The new deal requires the Supreme Court to give the Israeli government an extra month to prepare living spaces on the new plot of land, which Israel has declared abandoned by its previous Palestinian residents.

The Supreme Court determined that Amona was built on Palestinian-owned land and ordered the residents to be removed by Dec. 25. It has turned down two requests by the government to extend the deadline for evacuation, but is expected to be amenable to the new request.

Some 1,000 people gathered in Amona over the weekend to show support for the outpost and to hunker down to block the evacuation. In an open letter to the Amona residents, Netanyahu called on the families to refrain from violence against the security forces and to remove their children prior to the evacuation. — jta