Homes in the Beit El settlement, West Bank .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Dreinoff project has returned to litigation some 17 months after security forces clashed with young right-wing activists over the demolition of two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El containing 24 apartments.
On Monday, the High Court of Justice heard a petition from the non-governmental group Yesh Din asking the court to rescind a portion of the 1979 military seizure order of land belonging to the Palestinian village of Dura al-Kara upon which the structures had been built.
The group said it had returned to court last year on behalf of two Palestinian landowners after discovering that the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria had granted a master plan to that area.
The master plan’s approval means that contractor Meir Dreinoff can rebuild the two structures which the state had demolished.
Yesh Din had asked the court to rescind the military order for those two lots in its original petition in 2010, but in its ruling the court upheld the demolition without dealing with the request. Ordered the demolition based on the fact that they were built on private Palestinian property without the proper permits.
At Monday’s hearing, Yesh Din attorney Shlomi Zacharia asked the court to consider this issue and argued that building on Palestinian property, particularly land seized for military purposes, was against both Israeli and international law.
If the military order is rescinded, that would also make it impossible for the master plan to be applied to those two lots.
A situation has arisen here where a statutory authority is about to legalize something that is illegal, Zacharia told the High Court in reference to the master plan.
He further argued the 1979 injunction was temporary and could be revoked if not used. It was granted for military purposes, but was now being used as the basis for a civilian project.
“This is about economics, not defense. The state has taken land that belongs to one person and is allowing a second person to benefit economically from it,” Zacharia said. “There are military objectives and there are civilian objectives. There are fighters and there are civilians.
The two issues cannot be confused.”
Attorney Akiva Silvesky, who represents Beit El, argued that one needs to look “holistically” at the issue. “A settlement is not built in a minute; it happens in stages,” Silvesky said. The initial seizure order did not rule out the possibility of civilian construction, particularly given that such building supports the use of the settlement to secure a military objective, he said.
He added that he does not believe Yesh Din is purely concerned with just these two lots.
“It’s pretty clear that [the petitioners] are not just talking about these two buildings here,” Silvesky said, alluding to the larger issue involving Beit El, which is built on land initially seized for military purposes.