Israeli police clash with protesters in West Bank eviction

Israel moves on illegal site after announcing plans for 3,000 new settlement homes

 

Israel has embarked on an unprecedented wave of West Bank settlement expansion, approving 3,000 new homes less than a week after authorisation was granted for an extra 2,500 settler units.

The latest announcement came just hours before security forces began the forceful eviction of settlers from the outpost of Amona, north of Jerusalem, after the Israeli courts ruled that the community, home to 40 families, was built on private Palestinian land.

“We are in a new era, where life in Judea and Samaria goes back to its normal and proper course,” defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement announcing the new construction, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

The international community considers settlements illegal and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu frequently clashed with former US president Barack Obama over building in the West Bank. The administration of Donald Trump, however, has remained silent over Israeli announcements of settlement expansion and an avowed supporter of the settlement enterprise has been appointed as the new US ambassador to Israel.

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi warned that the “frenzied escalation of Israel’s illegal enterprise” signalled “the final demise” of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The silence of the new American government, including those who actively support the settlements in the White House and the administration as a whole, has emboldened Netanyahu to persist with his settlement activities,” she said.

Throughout Wednesday, some 3,000 Israeli police and troops removed Amona residents from their homes after they rejected a court order to voluntarily leave their West Bank hilltop.

Hundreds of right-wing sympathisers, mostly religious teenagers, reached the community, bypassing army roadblocks, and barricaded themselves inside the residents’ homes and the Amona synagogue, linking arms, singing songs and chanting Jewish prayers as they were dragged away from the buildings one by one.

Peaceful resistance

The police wore blue fleece jackets but carried no weapons and were under strict instructions to avoid bloodshed and violent clashes.

Most protestors followed instructions from settler leaders and rabbis for peaceful resistance but a few dozen were arrested during isolated clashes and more than a dozen police were injured.

One border policeman refused orders and was cheered by the activists.

The evacuation was particularly embarrassing for the right-wing Jewish Home, the coalition party most closely identified with the settlers, who had spearheaded numerous judicial and parliamentary manoeuvres to prevent the demolition of Amona, all to no avail. Jewish Home Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich likened the evacuation to rape.

“When a woman is raped it hurts, and what is happening here is a brutal rape.”

Party leader, education minister Naftali Bennett , said the evacuation heralded Israel’s annexation of the entire West Bank.

“From this legal defeat we will establish a new legal regime in Judea and Samaria. From the painful loss of this foothold in this mountain will emerge Israel’s application of sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria.”