The High Court of Justice chastised the state for failing to live up to its
legal obligations with respect to West Bank outposts, as it ordered the
demolition of Israeli homes built on private Palestinian property in three
hilltop communities: Ma’aleh Rehavim, Givat Assaf and Mitzpe Yizhar, within six
The court issued its ruling in response to a 2007 Peace Now
petition seeking to demolish six outposts in their entirety with the claim that
they were illegally built.
On Monday the court decided that if legally
possible, it would allow the six outposts to remain.
While some homes in
the outposts are set for removal, the rest of the homes will be allowed to
The other three outposts stated in the petition – Mitzpe Lachish,
Givat Haroeh and Ramat Gilad – will be allowed to remain in their
The court ordered the state to take active steps to legalize
the homes built on state or “survey land” of unclear ownership within five of
the six outposts.
The only exception was Givat Assaf, which was initially
built on private Palestinian property, and has since been mostly purchased by
The ruling rejected the Peace Now petition to force the
removal of all six outposts, but penalized the state for its conduct during the
petition and ordered it to pay Peace Now NIS 25,000.
“I’m sorry we got
this far,” Supreme Court Deputy President Miriam Naor said. “I’m sorry it is no
longer possible to rely on the state prosecutor’s declarations to the
In the 15-page ruling, the court wrote that as of 2011, the state
had based its responses to the Peace Now petition around the question of private
The court adopted a principled decision in March of
that year that structures built on that land should be removed.
state, in response to the petition, consistently stated its intention to the
court to legalize the remainder of the homes in the outposts.
in its decision, written by Chief Justice Asher Grunis, reprimanded the state
for its inconsistent policies with respect to the outposts, its failure to
protect the rights of private Palestinian property owners and its irresponsible
behavior toward the settlers.
Injunctions to remove all six outposts were
first issued in 2004 and consistently renewed, but in the last nine years the
state failed to execute those injunctions, Grunis said.
During the six
years that the petition was before the court, it gave the state a number of
opportunities to live up to its obligations. These chances were expressions of
confidence that the state would do so, Grunis wrote. He noted that the state had
breached that trust.
“The decision to order the demolition of homes on
private Palestinian property is not one that is taken lightly, because it
deprives people a roof over their heads,” Grunis wrote.
But this does not
legitimate the state’s “continuous foot dragging,” as well as the state’s lack
of law enforcement by which it allowed Israeli homes to remain on private
Palestinian property for so long, Grunis wrote.
During the course of the
case, more homes were built, he wrote.
Each time the state renewed the
injunction that allowed the removal of the outposts, the implication was that it
intended to destroy them, he wrote, yet such action was never
Removing the homes is the right answer for the issues of rule of
law and private property rights, Grunis said, and would be the execution of a
policy that the state itself put in place.
One could learn a lot about
the state’s attitude to the overall Peace Now petition from the way it handled
the issue of the Givat Assaf outpost, Grunis wrote.
That small community
of some 30 families is located at the T-Junction off Route 60, near the Beit El
Out of all six outposts in the petition, it is the only one
solely built on private Palestinian property and as a result, it was always
understood that it would be removed, Grunis wrote.
The state promised the
court that the demolition would occur by the end of 2011, but asked for an
extension so that they could do it peacefully, Grunis wrote.
of taking down the homes, the state sent in a request to authorize two property
purchases at the outpost, in which settlers bought homes from the Palestinian
landowners, Grunis wrote.
Those two requests turned into five, and at
present land purchase claims have been approved for 75 percent of the outpost,
Grunis noted, adding that the state is now looking to legalize it.
conduct is unacceptable,” he said.
Separately, Grunis said that the
state’s actions with respect to property legalization were also not
Two years ago, the state took a principled decision with
regard to authorizing homes on state and survey land in these outposts but never
executed that decision, Grunis said.
Instead it continued to reauthorize
the injunctions allowing the demolition of the same communities it claimed it
wanted to legalize, he said.
He took particular issue with the state’s
treatment of the settlers in the Ramat Gilad outpost, located in the Samaria
region of the West Bank on the edge of the Karnei Shomron settlement.
December of 2012, to stave off the demolition of their community, Ramat Gilad
residents made an agreement with the state by which they would allow the homes
in their outpost to be relocated from private Palestinian property to nearby
plots of land that could be legalized.
The state, however, did not take
the necessary steps to do so, and in the interim Palestinians have come forward
to explain that they own the lots where the relocated Ramat Gilad homes now
The state still claims that it intended to finalize the agreement,
but was not able to do so because of the Palestinians’ claims, Grunis
He noted that the court itself could not determine whether those
Ramat Gilad homes are on private Palestinian property.
Grunis charged the
state’s treatment of the outpost as “inappropriate,” in that it made a deal with
the outpost’s residents that it failed to keep, even though the settlers adhered
to their part of the bargain.
The state failed to thoroughly examine the
status of the land to which it relocated the homes, and even promised that the
process would be completed in three months, Grunis said, noting that the state
had not been able to keep that pledge.
The state has not offered another
solution or a deadline for the advancement of the matter, Grunis
The court also spoke of the other four outposts.
The edge of
Mitzpe Yitzhar is built mostly on state and survey land, but at the end of 2011,
the state forcibly destroyed two homes in the settlement that were built on
private Palestinian property.
Since then, four houses have been built
there, one on private Palestinian property, Grunis wrote. The state told the
court in May that it would remove that one home by the end of September, but has
yet to do so, he said.
With regard to Mitzpe Lachish, the state wants to
legalize it and turn it into a new neighborhood of the adjacent Negahot
settlement in the South Hebron Hills by expanding Negahot’s boundaries, Grunis
The state plans to legalize those portions of the Ma’aleh Rehavam
outpost that are located in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank. Grunis
clarified that this would not include renewed building in the outpost, that has
expanded onto private Palestinian property and into Area B of the West Bank,
which is under Palestinian civil control.
Earlier this year, the state
removed nine homes in the new part of the outpost. Since then settlers have
constructed new structures in that area of Ma’aleh Rehavam.
of an access road is a stumbling block to legalizing the Givat Haroeh outpost,
located on the edge of the Eli settlement, Grunis wrote.
The only road is
located on private Palestinian property and an alternative has yet to be found,
Grunis said. It is unclear whether all options have been exhausted, he said.