High Court: Seal illegal West Bank synagogue

Upholds June ruling; synagogue located in the El Matan outpost in Samaria.

August 9, 2010 03:55
3 minute read.
THE EL MATAN outpost’s synagogue was built without the proper authorization, the justices said.

El Matan synagogue 311. (photo credit: Gur Dotan)

The High Court of Justice on Sunday upheld a June ruling and ordered the state to seal and fence off a synagogue that it said was illegally constructed in the El Matan outpost in Samaria.

El Matan is located just south of the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement, but within its official boundaries.

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“There is no place for delaying the execution of this order,” the court said. But it added that there was no way to intervene in the authorities’ priorities for the area.

The court asked the state for an update on the matter within 60 days.

The Samaria Citizens’ Committee, which had filed a separate petition in an effort to reverse the ruling from June, said that “The High Court of Justice had for the countless time, shown that it once again preferred Arab interests over justice, thereby justifying the slogan – [that the court was] a branch of Meretz.”

It added that the weighty claims of the settlers were “rejected outright, without a real hearing and without a real reason.”

Attorney Doron Nir Tzvi, who represents the Citizens’ Committee, said that the state was selective in its enforcement of building codes in Judea and Samaria in that it ignored scores of instances of illegal Palestinian construction and focused instead on Jewish building.

He said that the synagogue was located on state land in a neighborhood in the advanced stages of planning.

But the court made clear in its ruling that it believed the synagogue was built without the proper authorization.

“The building was erected illegally without the required detailed plan in place and without building permits. The building serves the residents of an illegal outpost that exists without legal permission,” the court said.

A High Court petition was first filed against the synagogue’s construction in May 2009 by the heads of two nearby Palestinian villages, with the help of Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights. In response, the court issued a stop-work order against construction of the synagogue.

In June, the court ruled against the synagogue.

The Citizens’ Committee said that El Matan residents did not know about the petition because it was leveled against the IDF and the Samaria Regional Council, and not against them.

The committee said that as a result, the settlers had continued to build and only learned of the legal proceedings after they had finished work on the structure and brought in a Torah scroll.

In July, the Citizens’ Committee appealed the June ruling by filling a separate petition, asking to stop the state from sealing the building.

In Sunday’s ruling, the court chastised the settlers for their continued construction and for opening a separate case on the matter rather than filing as a continuation of the previous one.

Settlers have in the past taken issue with the characterization of El Matan as an outpost, saying it is a neighborhood of Ma’aleh Shomron and that only politics has prevented its legalization.

According to the 2005 outpost report authored for the government by attorney Talia Sasson, the outpost was created in 2000 and is located 1 km. outside of Ma’aleh Shomron.

She said that even though the outpost lacked the proper authorization, the Construction and Housing Ministry had spent NIS 850,000 on it.

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