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Photo by: Tovah Lazaroff
PM to ask court to delay Ulpana homes demolition
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
27/04/2012
State to request that High Court of Justice postpone demolition of 30 homes in the Ulpana outpost built on Palestinian land.
 
In the next few days, the state plans to ask the High Court of Justice to postpone the scheduled demolition of 30 homes in the Ulpana outpost.

The government promised the court that it would bulldoze the homes by May because they were built on land classified as private Palestinian property.

In the past year, right-wing politicians and residents of Ulpana – located on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement – have lobbied the government to legalize the homes. Last Friday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz visited the outpost.

This Friday, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom is slated to speak with residents there and pledge his support. The Likud party also held a rally there on Sunday.

Under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the government initiated a policy to demolish unauthorized Jewish homes on private Palestinians property.

Ulpana residents have argued that the Beit El Yeshiva and Amana – the construction arm of the settlement movement – bought the land from Palestinian landowners. They received state-guaranteed mortgages and grants to buy it.

The government and the High Court do not recognize the legality of the sale.

In 2008, the Palestinian claimants petitioned the court against the outpost through the help of Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights. In response, the state said it would raze the five stone apartment buildings in which 30 families live.

Still, earlier this month, Netanyahu said that he would work to find a solution to avoid the demolition.

In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday morning, he said that the state planned to tell the court that it wanted to delay the demolition so that it could pursue alternatives.

Since the demolition was scheduled by the state and not demanded by the court, the government has some flexibility in this matter. But the court must accept its request.

“The matter needs to be dealt with,” Netanyahu said. He said that although the situation was legally complex, there were alternative solutions to the property dispute.

The prime minister added that it was important to work within the legal system.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that if there was no way to retroactively legalize the homes, the state could build new homes for the Ulpana families on a 22- dunam (2.2-hectare) tract of land elsewhere in Beit El.

Attorney Michael Sfard, who represents Yesh Din and the Palestinian land owners, spoke out against Netanyahu’s request.

“The decision of the state to renege on its own obligation to evacuate at the last minute, despite the fact that it had a full year to prepare for the evacuation, is a worrisome deference to political considerations,” he said.

According to Sfard, “This occurs at the expense of the rule of law in cooperation with offenders. It is surely known that the land is privately owned Palestinian land, and that there will be no change in the attorney general's position during the time requested.”

“Yesh Din will continue to strive for a more moral State of Israel that respects human rights and is based on the rule of law,” he said.
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