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Viewpoint - January 26, 2017

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Deal to remove Israeli outpost in West Bank in jeopardy
by: Mike Smith
AFP

Jerusalem (AFP) - A deal to evacuate a hardline Jewish outpost that has become a symbol of Israel's occupation of the West Bank was in jeopardy Monday ahead of a February 8 deadline to remove it.

Settlers in the Amona outpost of some 40 families and which was built on Palestinian land accused the government of not living up to the terms of a deal reached in December that would see them moved nearby.

Palestinian landowners also filed a petition to the Israeli high court on Monday with further objections to the government's relocation plans, said rights group Yesh Din, which is representing them.

In response, the court issued an injunction preventing the land plots in question from being taken over while it studies the petition, Yesh Din said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, reportedly told ministers from his Likud party that the deal could not be implemented because of legal complications.

The lack of a clear solution has once again raised the possibility of a forced evacuation of the Amona settlers by the Israeli government and fears that violence could result.

"Right now we're dealing with the fact that the government and officials lied," said Eli Greenberg, an Amona resident and spokesman for the outpost.

"They promised all kinds of lies to us."

The Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank did not respond to a request for comment.

The long-running saga has centred on a 2014 high court ruling ordering the outpost northeast of the Palestinian political capital of Ramallah to be evacuated because it was built on private Palestinian land.

An initial deadline of December 25, 2016 was given for the outpost to be removed.

- Deadline extended -

But with the deadline approaching, Israeli right-wing politicians rushed to Amona's defence while also promoting a bill to legalise thousands of other settler homes in the West Bank.

Hundreds of hardline Jewish youths also flooded into the outpost in a bid to prevent the evacuation.

Negotiations resulted in a deal on December 18 under which Amona residents agreed to relocate peacefully to nearby land considered abandoned.

The court then granted an extension of the deadline to February 8 when the settlers promised to relocate peacefully.

But Palestinian landowners objected to the plans, resulting in further legal manoeuvrings.

Their court petition on Monday objected to a government plan to divide certain plots and called for the deal to be scrapped.

"Ever since the notion of using abandoned property was suggested, we have claimed that one injustice cannot be corrected with another, and that additional land cannot be taken over just to appease Amona residents," Yesh Din executive director Neta Patrick said in a statement.

Israeli settlements are seen as major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of a future state of their own.

All are considered illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not.

Settlements such as Amona are called outposts -- those that Israel has not approved.

Some 400,000 Israelis live in the West Bank among around 2.6 million Palestinians.

Original Article: Deal to remove Israeli outpost in West Bank in jeopardy

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Tzipi Livni cancels Brussels trip amid threat of arrest

Ex-foreign minister cancels Brussels visit after prosecutors said they would question her over war crimes allegations.

AFP news agency

Israel's former foreign minister cancelled a trip to Brussels after Belgian prosecutors confirmed they wanted to question her over war crimes allegations.

Tzipi Livni was expected to meet Jewish leaders in the city on Monday, but cancelled ahead of time.

A spokesman for the event said Livni cancelled for "personal reasons" but local newspaper Le Soir said prosecutors had been hoping to question her over allegations of war crimes in the 2008-9 Israeli war in Gaza, when she was foreign minister.

"We wanted to take advantage of her visit to try to advance the investigation," a spokesman for Belgium's federal prosecutor Thierry Werts told the AFP news agency.

Livni is named along with other political and military leaders in a complaint filed in June 2010 over alleged crimes committed during the Gaza war.

More than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died during the Israeli offensive between December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009.

Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, also died.

Role in war

Belgian authorities have the right to detain a suspect in its territory on crimes related to international law, as one of the victims had Belgian citizenship.

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office believes Livni, now a member of parliament and opposition leader, is not protected by immunity.

The Belgian-Palestinian Association supporting the complaint said in a statement it wanted to hold Livni responsible for her role in the war, as well as Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, then prime minister and minister of defence.

In December 2009, Livni cancelled a visit to London after being informed that she was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by a UK court over her role in the same war.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said the planned interrogation was "a cheap publicity stunt with no legal basis".

Original Article: Tzipi Livni cancels Brussels trip amid threat of arrest

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