Hundreds Protest in Jerusalem Against the Government
Waving Israeli flags, singing and dancing, hundreds of youth blocked roads near the Israeli Knesset (parliament) as part of a demonstration by Jewish settlers against Israeli government plans to demolish the outpost of Amona, next to the community of Ofra, in the West Bank.
Schools in Ofra, which was established in 1975 on the main road between Ramallah and Nablus, held a one-day strike, and bused in hundreds of students to Jerusalem for the protest.
“This is only the beginning,” Hila Saban, 14, of Ofra told The Media Line. “Today it might be my house or my friend’s house and tomorrow it can be your house.
She says one of her best friends lives in Amona, and is afraid that her home might be demolished if the government implements the Supreme Court decision to demolish the outpost by December 25 this year. The Supreme Court decision came after dovish Jewish organizations brought documents proving that the land that Amona is built on is private Palestinian land.
The demonstrators here say that they do not believe that Palestinians would return to the land even if the court decision is implemented.
“There are no Arabs complaining, only the left which is encouraging the Palestinians to complain but nobody knows who are the owners,” Yirmi Greenhut, a farmer who has lived in Ofra since 1980 told The Media Line. “We have a right-wing government in the Jewish state and we expect them to take care of the Jews. This would not happen anywhere else in the world.”
Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the protestors that she would do whatever she can to legalize the houses.
“I promise, together with my friends in the Likud party, to normalize the settlement enterprise. We will not see mounted police in Ofra,” she said, referring to the use of mounted police in 2006 when nine homes in Amona were demolished.
It has been almost 50 years since Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, there are today about 400,000 Israelis living in 121 “settlements” in the West Bank, along with about 100 unauthorized outposts. While Israel says there is a difference between “legal settlements” like Ofra which were established with government approval, and “illegal” outposts like Amona, most of the international community says that all construction on land that Israel acquired in 1967 is illegal.
Israel has divided the West Bank into three areas. Palestinians have sole control over Area A, which includes the main Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jericho, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have joint control over Area B, which is primarily Palestinian villages, and Israel has sole control over Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank that includes all of the Jewish settlements.
Many of those who came to demonstrate said they want the government to annex Area C and make it part of Israel.
“It is time to decide what is going on with all of Judea and Samaria,” Yael Ben Yosef, who lives in Ofra with her six children told The Media Line, using the Biblical names for The West Bank. “The government sent us there to live, they built us houses, we have mortgages, and then they come and tell us it’s not legal. It’s now 50 years later. Make a decision what is going on with us.”
Opponents say that it is crucial that Israel respect the rule of law.
“The houses of Amona are undoubtedly on private Palestinian land and must be removed,” Hagit Ofran, the head of Settlement Watch for the dovish Peace Now movement told The Media Line. “The Israeli Supreme Court says there is no way but to take them down. The first petitions against the construction were filed in 2005, so the owners have had more than a decade to find themselves new homes.
She said Amona is an important test case for the rule of law and the future of democracy in Israel.