Right slams demolition deadline demand

High Court accused of regarding itself as “branch of NIF rather than Israel."

February 18, 2010 02:29
3 minute read.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel on Wednesday accused the High Court of Justice of regarding itself as “a branch of the New Israel Fund rather than of the State of Israel” after it gave the state 60 days to decide when it would demolish 18 illegal houses in the West Bank outposts of Hayovel and Hersha.

One of the houses belongs to the widow of Maj. Roi Klein, who was killed after falling on a hand grenade to protect his soldiers during the Second Lebanon War.

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The interim decision came in response to a petition filed in 2005 by the left-wing Peace Now organization, which demanded that the state implement demolition orders it had issued against the buildings which were constructed without permits. Peace Now also charged that the buildings had been constructed on survey land (that is, land whose ownership is in doubt) or private Palestinian land.

“Whoever decides to destroy the house of a hero of Israel, despite the state’s request to reexamine the matter, strikes a mortal blow at public confidence in the Supreme Court,” charged Nohi Eyal, director-general of the forum.

Right-wing MKs, including Michael Ben-Ari (National Union Party) also protested the decision handed down on Sunday by a panel of High Court justices including Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Elyakim Rubinstein and Yoram Danziger.

In its decision, the court rejected the state’s most recent reply of January 10 to the effect that it was re-examining the question of the ownership of the land upon which the houses had been built. Until then, the state had admitted that the buildings had been constructed without a permit, that all the houses in Hersha had been built on survey land, and that some of the houses in Hayovel were built on survey land. Moreover, it said that other houses were built on land that was partly survey and partly Arab-owned and that one house was built entirely on Arab-owned land.

Until January 10, the state kept telling the court that it intended to implement the demolition orders but that it would do so according to an order of priorities that it had established for itself. It continuously refused to commit itself to a date, when it would demolish the houses according to its order of priorities.

On July 12, the court declared that according to the order of priorities presented by the state, many houses in the outposts should have been fairly high on the list. “In these circumstances,” it wrote then, “the state should have carried out the demolition orders already or at least set a definite timetable for doing so.” It also ordered the state to begin granting hearings for the inhabitants of the houses, as part of the process for executing the orders “without further delay.” It gave the state four months to report back to the court on the results of the hearings.

Four months later the state informed the court that it had not yet completed the hearings but that, in the meantime, it had decided to re-examine the ownership question and, for the first time, left open the possibility that it would not demolish the houses after all. “We are examining other options to resolve the matter,” wrote the state’s representative, Gilad Shirman, and asked the court for six more months to complete their examination.

This is the request that the court rejected on Sunday. “It appears that our decision of July 12 was only partially carried out [by the state],” wrote the judges, “in the sense that despite the time that has elapsed, the hearing procedures have not been completed and the state has not presented a timetable for implementing the demolition orders.” It gave the state another 60 days in which to do so.

It also made it clear that regarding the timetable for demolishing the buildings, “the state will give expression to the advanced stage of the petition and to the affidavit it submitted to the court in which it announced that it would give high priority to executing demolition orders based on judicial decisions,” a clear hint that if the state did not provide a “reasonable” timetable of its own accord, the court would accept the petition and order the state to demolish the houses.

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