JERUSALEM: Israel will carry out a court order to demolish the wildcat Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank by the end of the year, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday.
However, a proposed plan to simply move the settlement nearby has raised international concern.
“I have said before and I say again to the settlers of Amona, there is a judgement of the (Israeli) Supreme Court and we shall honour it,” Lieberman said at a Jewish school in the occupied West Bank on the first day of the new school year.
Amona, home to about 40 families, was built on lands privately owned by Palestinians, who successfully petitioned Israeli courts for the outpost’s removal.
After repeated delays, the Supreme Court ordered the settlers’ eviction and the demolition of their homes by December 25 this year.
Last month, Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said that Lieberman’s defence ministry was working to transplant Amona residents to confiscated Palestinian land a few meters (yards) from the present site, effectively legalizing the rogue outpost.
“We proposed a lot of alternatives and I hope we can find an option that the Amona settlers will also accept,” Lieberman said on Thursday.
The United States has said it is “deeply concerned” by the relocation plan.
“This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinion and counter to longstanding Israeli policy to not seize private Palestinian land for Israeli settlements,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said last month.
Washington issued a fresh rebuke Wednesday over what it said was Israel’s accelerated settlement building, in the face of mounting international concern.
“This significant expansion of the settlement activity poses a serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution,” President Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“We are particularly troubled by the policy of retroactively approving illegal outposts and unauthorized settlements,” Earnest added.