Plan to transplant illegal West Bank settlement of Amona to nearby Palestinian land angers Washington
Washington opposes Israel’s plan to move the outpost of Amona to land that belongs to Palestinians who were forced by the Israeli army to leave their homes on the site in 1967.
A senior U.S. official said the US administration has recently approached the Israeli government to strongly protest the plan for Amona, which is considered illegal according to Israeli and international law, reported.Ha’aretz.
The Americans say that the plan contradicts commitments Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to President Barack Obama that Israel would not appropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank to establish new settlements or expand existing ones.
In 2009, Netanyahu made a landmark speech at Bar-Ilan University during which he declared, for the first time, that he was willing to accept “a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”
The senior U.S. official noted that Washington has recently approached the Israeli government to strongly protest the matter. The administration had held a series of discussions with Israelis at working and senior levels on Amona, he added.
Political sources told Haaretz that no decision had been made on Amona, adding that the plan referred to did not involve the expropriation of land.
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters Thursday that the US was “deeply concerned” by the Israeli plan.
“This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinion and counter to longstanding Israeli policy to not seize private Palestinian land for Israeli settlements,” .
Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and sometimes sends security personnel to demolish them.
The international community considers all settlements built in the West Bank — including annexed east Jerusalem — to be illegal.
Amona, home to about 40 families, was built on lands privately owned by Palestinians, who successfully petitioned Israeli courts for the outpost’s removal.
After repeated delays, the Supreme Court ordered the settlers’ eviction and the demolition of their homes by December 25 this year.
The site being eyed for their relocation is just a few meters (yards) from the present location.
“In order to compensate a small group of settlers who stole private Palestinian lands, the Israeli government itself is now stealing private lands as well,” Israeli NGO Peace Now said in a statement.
The Americans view the plan as deviating from commitments undertaken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to President Barack Obama that Israel would not appropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank to establish new settlements or expand existing ones. Israeli Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau commented on Amona Thursday night as part of a daily briefing to reporters.
“We’re deeply concerned by reports that the Israeli government has begun the process to take over privately-owned Palestinian land to relocate the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona,” she said.