State to approve outposts on land not privately owned

Government statement to High Court indicates it is aiming to authorize some outposts; will demolish houses built on privately owned land.

By RON FRIEDMAN
May 4, 2011 01:21
4 minute read.
An outpost in the West Bank.

West Bank outpost 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

The state will take steps to retroactively approve construction of those houses in the West Bank outposts of Givat HaYovel and Horsha built on state land, but will demolish, within a year, those houses that were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

The state announced the plans in its response to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice by Peace Now over the construction of settler houses.

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“Upon close examination, most of the land in the Givat Hayovel neighborhood of the Eli settlement is land that was not privately purchased and could be designated government property (state land),” the state told the court.

“Meanwhile, it was found that some of the land in the area surveyed could not be designated as state land, since it was found to be cultivated for years before the beginning of construction work and there is a possibility that someone can claim private ownership of them,” the response continued.

As for the Horsha outpost, the state said that all of the houses were built on state land, and therefore their approval would be examined.

The response to the Peace Now petition was issued soon after responses to a series of similar petitions submitted to the court by Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights. In all the state’s responses relating to outposts in Shvut Rachel, Beit El and Rachelim, a similar action plan was announced.

The response reported on the holding of a series of meetings led by Prime Minister Binyamn Netanyahu and attended by the ministers of defense, public security, strategic affairs and justice, as well as the attorney-general, that aimed to set out a government policy regarding the destruction of houses built on private land and the approval of those built on state land.

“We would note, however, that the matter of construction in Judea and Samaria, as well as that of destruction of illegal buildings, among both the Israeli and the Palestinian populations, are at the heart of Israel’s diplomatic discourse. Therefore the government must consider all the relevant considerations when setting down policy; thus the diplomatic considerations also effect the enforcement priorities in the region,” the reply to the court read.

The state also said in its response that until the buildings were approved, the government would make sure that no additional construction took place.

Houses built on private land are to be evacuated and demolished within a year. An exception would be the family home of Maj. Eliraz Peretz in the Givat Hayovel outpost near Eli. He died last year in a skirmish on the Gaza border. It was built on private land, but due to the unique nature of the case, is to be allowed to remain in place until a suitable legal solution can be found.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Saturday, the Defense Ministry’s settlement adviser, Eitan Broshi, said the process of approving the construction could take up to two years and that no one could live in those homes during that time.

Attorney Shlomi Zecharya, who together with Michael Sfard represented Peace Now and Yesh Din in the petitions, said the state’s response was an outrageous attempt to please everyone by issuing empty statements.

“On one hand, they are telling the settlers and their supporters that they are working to approve the outposts, while on the other, if the Americans complain, they can say that no government decision has been reached regarding the approval of outposts, and therefore they did not violate any international commitments,” Zecharya said.

“The real message that they are putting out is that if you build illegally and just wait for a while, the government will approve your construction retroactively. This is a dismal example of state sovereignty and enforcement of law and order,” he said.

Zecharya also said that the state’s response was a slap in the face of the High Court.

“This petition has been playing out for five years. During most of that time the state stalled, promising the court that it would remove the outposts and that it would hold hearings for those who built illegally. Now, after the court strictly ordered them to complete the hearings, they come up with a new plan saying they plan to approve the outpost... This evasive, lame and impudent action is nothing short of contemptuous,” Zecharya said.

Danny Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that only once the 98 percent of the outposts that are located on state lands are approved, will it be time to discuss the remaining 2%.

“The Palestinians’ actions make all the limitations and sanctions placed on the Yesha settlement project redundant and irrelevant. The order of the day must be largescale approval of construction plans and settlement and outpost authorization. I was pleased to hear cabinet ministers say in recent days that they support the annexation of Judea and Samaria. As the Palestinians unite in their hatred against Israel, we must present unity of our own, by increasing construction and Zionist action on the ground and not, heaven forbid, by creating division by evacuations or uprootings,” Dayan said.

Asked to comment, Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev said, “Israel will honor its international agreements.”


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