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Israel Reaches Agreement to Relocate Amona Settlers

A flagship of the settler enterprise, Amona, established 20 years ago, is testing how far Israel’s right-wing government is willing to go to protect the 100 or so outposts that were built without authorization across the West Bank. The case of Amona has also stretched the country’s democratic system, with right-wing politicians pushing to flout the 2014 Israeli Supreme Court order to demolish the outpost, and advancing contentious legislation in an effort to reverse the judgment.

While Israel allows settlement on public, not private, land, most of the world considers the West Bank to be occupied territory and views all settlement there as an obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state and a violation of international law. The Obama administration has vehemently condemned Israel’s continued settlement activities and its efforts to relocate the residents of Amona to another contentious site.

The vote in favor of the deal may have mitigated the prospect of any imminent clash, but it is hardly likely to put an end to the yearslong legal and political wrangling over the outpost. It was ordered removed by Dec. 25 because it was constructed on privately owned Palestinian land. Under the new arrangement, more than 20 of the outpost’s mobile homes are to be relocated to nearby property that, according to Israel, has been abandoned by absentee Palestinian owners. The settlers will be offered temporary but renewable leases for use of the land.

Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that represented the Palestinian landowners in the case that led to the 2014 ruling, said on Sunday that it had made contact with a Palestinian claiming ownership of the supposedly abandoned lot to be handed to the settlers. The group did not identify the claimant.

“The various proposals based on takeover of private Palestinian land and presented as an alleged solution to appease lawbreakers — the residents of Amona — are illegal, immoral and unreasonable,” the group said in a statement.

Atallah Abd al-Hafez Hamed, 63, a resident of the nearby Palestinian town of Silwad, said he and his siblings had inherited land on the edge of Amona from their father. “Settlers are now living on my land that they once claimed was absentee land, and now their own government is forcing them out,” said Mr. Hamed, who was one of the original petitioners to the Supreme Court. “The land they have agreed to move to is also not absentee land, but is rather owned by residents of my village.”

Aware that their deal with the government could face more legal challenges, the residents of Amona said in a statement that if the state did not meet its commitments, they would “renew the struggle.”

Shortly before Sunday’s vote, Orya Yahav, 19, was sitting in her family’s trailer, which was filled with youths sleeping on couches and studying Torah. They had come from all over the country, and she did not know most of them.

Ms. Yahav has lived all her life in Amona and is in the middle of performing a voluntary second year of national service, an alternative to military service for religious girls. “I want to serve the state,” she said, “so it is a bit disappointing. The state encouraged us to live here and now is not doing enough to keep us here. It’s unfair. It feels a bit like a betrayal.”

The government is now expected to ask the court for a month’s delay to prepare the ground for the relocation. By then there will be a new administration in Washington, which is expected to be more forgiving of Israel’s settlement activities. President-elect Donald J. Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, has been an avid supporter of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

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NYtimes