Steinitz's plan to save Amona

Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks about his plan to save Amona from demolition, and plans to solve water crisis in northern Samaria.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Steinitz on a visit to Amona
Steinitz on a visit to Amona
Photo: Eliran Aharon

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz addressed the fears over the impending demolition of the Samarian town of Amona, which is slated to take place in 6 months, and the water crisis in northern Samaria, along with possible solutions.

Minister Steinitz was asked how close he thinks we are to seeing a right-wing government actually going through with the demolition of a town, this in light of comments made by the Attorney-General (A-G) claiming that there is no recourse but to relocate the town, most probably to adjacent land.

"The danger is very real in my eyes," said Steinitz, "it would be a great tragedy as well as a total absurdity, if we aren't able to prevent this demolition."

He recalled the days when he was the head of the parliamentary investigative committee dealing with the Amona affair in 2006. "We recognized the needless tragedy of the destruction of those nine homes, a useless destruction with tens of people wounded and arrested," said the Energy Minister, who went on to recount that the Palestinians who had claimed ownership of the land back then didn't even ever get it, leaving the houses demolished and empty still in the middle of the town. "It's just needless suffering," he said.

When asked what causes the A-G to say that the proposed compromise bill won't stand in the Supreme Court, Steinitz replied: "I didn't delve into the matter and I'm not a legal scholar, but my proposal is a bit different and it has a chance to stand up to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.

"My proposal says something simple - logic must prevail. There's a difference between one of two houses and a whole neighborhood, and there's a difference between temporary living on the land and a community that has been built up over many years when someone suddenly challenges the ownership."

Steinitz continued to explain the basis for his proposal. "Let's imagine, theoretically, that someone shows up and proves that an entire neighborhood in northern Tel Aviv was built on land that was thought to be state-owned land, but really belonged to his grandfather, and he proves it, saying that he want to use it as farmland and is not interested in receiving monetary compensation instead. No normal country would evacuate and demolish a whole neighborhood or city because some guy wants the land for a field filled with weeds. This same logic should apply to Amona."

According to the Minister, the matter should be resolved by discussions with the A-G, "to arrive at a general directive which would stipulate that when there is a matter of disputed ownership over land that is occupied for several years by a whole community, more than a few families, then under certain conditions the government can impose a solution involving compensation, rather than demolition and evacuation.

When asked whether he doesn't think that leftist organizations will claim that his plan would reward criminals for committing their crime more broadly by stealing more land and for longer periods of time, Steinitz replied that "the opposite is true. If you're building a whole town or neighborhood it's far more visible, and if there was no challenge to that it stands to reason that any eventual challenge wouldn't result in demolition. This kind of thing would never happen elsewhere in the world or within the Green Line."

The Minister said that he's been promoting the proposal to several government elements including the Prime Minister, who's been receptive to the logic in the proposal, but who, in Steinitz's words, "isn't the A-G". He now intends to continue to push his proposal, getting the relevant bodies and the Justice Minister involved, while vowing to support any proposal that would result in the impending demolition being cancelled.

Solving Samaria's water crisis

Later in the interview Steinitz was asked to comment in his capacity as Water Resources Minister on the water shortage crisis in northern Samaria, which is affecting some 100,000 people, Jews and Arabs. In response, he said that he's working to solve the crisis on two fronts: the short term and the long term.

"When I was notified of the shortage, that there was no water in people's taps, I immediately convened an urgent meeting with representatives of all the relevant bodies, we devised a quick plan of action and I hope and expect that there will be a respite in the coming week or two in terms of the immediate crisis."

Practical actions currently being taken include the transportation of giant water tanks to replenish the water reserves, cutting through red tape to enable the transfer of funds to build better water storage infrastructure in the towns and villages, and the drilling of new routes for water supply, the Water Resources Minister outlined.

"This whole issue stems from the fact that no one dealt with the water infrastructure for years, while the population was growing rapidly," Steinitz explained, "also, the total farmland area grew, bringing a greatly increased demand for water. That's why we're working on a long term plan that will enable us to double the amount of water being pumped into the Samaria area, so that in the future the population will be able to grow without this sort of crisis repeating itself."