Amona is a ramshackle collection of 40 units where Jewish settlers live on privately-owned Palestinian land. It is tiny – and has just split the Jewish world in two.
When Israel’s Supreme Court finally ruled earlier this year that the Amona settlers should be moved on, even right-wing premier Benjamin Netanyahu thought it best to uphold Israeli law. But Israel’s pro-settler lobby, led by Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, kicked up a fuss and threatened to bring down Bibi’s government.
By Monday, Bennett and Netanyahu had agreed to sacrifice Amona, but to retroactively legalise about 55 other outposts on land legally owned by Palestinians. Together these outposts are home to about 4,000 Jewish settlers. The Bill passed its first reading, and is, according to Bennett, the clearest move yet towards annexation.
Jews of many stripes point out the contradiction between the Israeli government saying it wants a two-state solution, and conversely, Israeli politicians overturning the ruling by Israeli judges that the land in question is Palestinian-owned.
They also look at Israel’s actions and question her insistence the main obstacle to peace is the Palestinians’ reluctance to compromise. It is an uneasy moment, the significance of which is not lost on Israel’s equally uneasy allies.
Just a few days earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the Jewish state had a choice: agree a border with the Palestinians, which would lead to normalised relations with the Arab world, or continue building settlements in the West Bank, which would lead to Israel’s inability to be democratic.
In the end, said Kerry, it comes down to leadership, leaving us all to wonder whether this is what great Jewish leaders of the past would have wanted.