The High Court of Justice sharply criticized the state’s request to cancel its
ruling to demolish illegal structures in the Ulpana outpost on the outskirts to
Beit El, during a hearing on Sunday.
The justices are expected to issue a
decision on the matter within a few days.
Sunday’s hearing comes after
the High Court ruled last September that the state must demolish the structures
by May 1, after accepting a government pledge to raze the five stone apartment
buildings in which 30 families live.
Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human
Rights petitioned the court against the outpost in 2008, on behalf of a group of
Palestinians who claim the land belongs to them.
Ulpana residents have
argued that the Beit El Yeshiva and Amana – the construction arm of the
settlement movement – bought the land from its Palestinian owners.
received state-guaranteed mortgages and grants to buy it.
Last week, the
state asked the court to reopen the Ulpana case, and reconsider its ruling
regarding demolishing the houses. The state said the demolitions would have
tough implications for residents in Ulpana and Beit El.
President Asher Dan Grunis and Justices Salim Joubran and Uzi Vogelman heard the
state’s request to reopen the case on Sunday.
At the start of the
hearing, attorney Osnat Mandel for the state said that the government came
before the court with a “most exceptional request” regarding Ulpana.
political leadership wants to examine how it will implement its policies
[regarding West Bank outposts],” Mandel said. She later added that the state
wanted “60 days to enable us to consolidate the moves we plan to
Vogelman criticized the state’s request, saying that its pledge to
the court “was not just a case of a voluntary commitment but a significant
“This means that for all court rulings, the state will come
and say it has changed its policy and wants to reopen the case,” Vogelman
Mandel countered by repeating that the state believes that “these
are very exceptional circumstances.”
The state attorney said that the
most senior political echelons want to “examine the implementation of policy,
not policy change.”
“Considering the whole issue of construction in the
West Bank, there are very unique social, operational characteristics, and this
is a very complex issue,” Mandel added.
However, Joubran asked why the
state had not done this in the year since its announcement to the court in May
“These implications have been known for years – so what has
changed?” he asked.
Joubran also slammed the state’s description of its
request as “exceptional.”
“I have a problem with the definition of
‘exceptional request,’ it has become commonplace,” Joubran said.
replied that the state was making its request on a very narrow issue, to address
very serious questions of property rights.
Since May 2011, she said,
there had been more in-depth discussion regarding the implications of evacuating
and demolishing buildings that have been populated for a long time, including
regarding land claims.
However, Mandel acknowledged that the state has
yet to contact the Palestinian petitioners about the issue.
“When we have
a concrete solution we will ask them, but we don’t yet have anything to offer
them,” she said.
Regarding the issue of land ownership in Ulpana, Joubran
added that as yet, the settlers have not presented any purchase claims to the
Attorney Yaron Kosteliz, representing the Beit El settlement,
told the court that the land sale was made in 2000, and that there had been a
police investigation into whether it had been legal.
remaining is whether the seller deceived the buyers,” Kosteliz said.
issue of the land ownership in Ulpana is the subject of a civil suit in the
Jerusalem District Court. Settlers say the property was purchased legally from
its Palestinian owner by the Beit El Yeshiva and Amana.
However, the sale
was never registered with the Civil Administration of Judea and
The High Court and the state have not recognized the legality of
the sale, and the Jerusalem District Court has not yet ruled on the settlers’
civil claim, filed in September days before the final High Court ruling on the
Kosteliz told the court that the settlers had not turned to the
civil courts back in 2008, when the Palestinians filed their High Court
petition, because they believed they had a strong case in the High
Attorney Michael Sfard, representing the Palestinian petitioners,
slammed the state’s request and accused its representatives of “presenting
themselves today as against the law, and they are harming it.
“I said in
September’s hearing that they would not make good on their commitment,” Sfard
said, saying he asked the court to issue a final injunction, even though this is
not the usual procedure when the state pledges to undertake an action.
the state had given a pledge to enforce demolition orders, the court did not
issue a final injunction ordering the state to raze the buildings, and held that
the legal process was complete.
Also on Sunday, the court heard a request
by Meretz MKs Zehava Gal-On, Nitzan Horowitz and Ilan Gilon to add themselves
The lawmakers said they did so “to represent the silenced
public interest on the issue of Ulpana.”
“The settler-haredi government
of Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu], [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman
and [Interior Minister Eli] Yishai are now spitting in the face of the whole of
sane society,” the Meretz MKs said.
“The state’s request to cancel the
final ruling and end the illegal outpost’s evacuation is an inconceivable
insult,” they added.
In response to the hearing, a spokesman for the
settlers said on Sunday that Ulpana residents were “confident the Israeli
government will be held accountable for its promises to ensure that Ulpana will
The settlers say that after the apartments were purchased in
2000, then-prime minister Ehud Barak’s government added infrastructure including
gas, electricity, water and telephone connections as well as roads and
Twelve years ago the government also gave the settlers a grant
of NIS 90,000 and other incentives, they said.
IDF officers live in the
neighborhood as well as Torah scholars and hi-tech workers, the settlers
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.