US 'deeply concerned' by plans to relocate Amona

US rips possible Israeli plan to relocate Samarian town to nearby site.

David Rosenberg ,

Kerry and Obama
Kerry and Obama

Israeli plans to relocate the embattled Samarian town of Amona received harsh criticism recently from the US State Department, which claimed the plan would constitute a serious deviation from past Israeli policy and commitments by the Netanyahu government to the Obama administration.

Amid talk by senior Israeli officials regarding the possibility of relocating the town of roughly 40 families to a nearby site, an advertisement was published by the Civil Administration in the Arabic Al Quds newspaper noting the intention of the administration to build on 30 plots near Amona, covering more than 2,000 dunams (500 acres).

The advertisement serves as notification for anyone claiming ownership, giving them 30 days to present their claim for scrutiny.

Amona, located near Ofra in Samaria, is slated for destruction by the end of the year. Knesset members from the Likud and Jewish Home have suggested a number of possible solutions to circumvent the High Court’s ruling against the town, including relocation to a nearby site, compensation in the form of a new, larger town near Shiloh, or the use of absentee land laws to legalize the status of Amona at its present location.

Hagit Ofran, a member of the left-wing Peace Now organization, said the Al Quds advertisement suggested the Israeli government was likely to relocate Amona to a site in the immediate vicinity of the existing location.

“They have started the process of taking land,” Ofran told AFP.

"The Civil Administration has opened a process where it is announcing that it intends to make use of these properties which are near Amona."

"It can be assumed that the takeover's purpose is to allow the relocation of the settlers of Amona from the land they are currently occupying.”

The US State Department was quick to respond to the report, blasting a move they said “would effectively create a new settlement”.

“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,” said State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters during a Thursday evening news briefing.

“This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinions and counter to long-standing Israeli policy to not seize private Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. If this moves ahead, it would effectively create a new settlement or significantly expand the footprint of an existing settlement deep in the West Bank.”

“This is the continuation of a process that has seen some 32 outposts, that are illegal under Israeli law, being legalized in recent years.”

Trudeau went on to draw a direct comparison between the plans to relocate Amona and Arab incitement against Israelis.

“I’d note more broadly…this is a number of trends [sic] that have been highlighted in the recent Quartet report that are threatening the two-state solution. Those trends also include Palestinian incitement. Along those lines, we’re deeply concerned by reports that there was a post on a Fatah Facebook site that boasted about killing Israelis. We understand the page has now been taken down.”

“You know, there’s absolutely no justification for any statement that glorifies terrorism or glorifies violence. Incitement to violence is a grave concern, that’s why the Quartet report also calls on Palestinians to act to stop it.”