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FM cites rights council in claim against Ulpana evacuation
By HERB KEINON
06/04/2012
Liberman elicits European Court of Human Rights decision restitution of property left behind by Greek Cypriots in defense of W. Bank outpost.
 
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman cited a most unusual source Monday in arguing against the evacuation of the Ulpana outpost in Beit El: The European Court of Human Rights.

Liberman, speaking to an accountants’ conference in Eilat, said he asked his ministry’s legal department for an opinion on the relevancy of a 2010 court case that dealt with the restitution of property left behind by Greek Cypriots who fled the north when the Turks invaded the island in 1974.

In what Liberman characterized as a “riveting” decision, the court, based in Strasbourg, France, wrote that, “Some 35 years have elapsed since the applicants lost possession of their property in northern Cyprus in 1974. Generations have passed. The local population has not remained static.

“Turkish Cypriots who inhabited the north have migrated elsewhere; Turkish- Cypriot refugees from the south have settled in the north; Turkish settlers from Turkey have arrived in large numbers and established their homes. Much Greek- Cypriot property has changed hands at least once, whether by sale, donation or inheritance.”

A University of Denver blog on international relations summarizing the verdict said the court found that since the offending party, in this case, Turkey, had “established a fair and equitable means of compensating refugees for their properties then [the Greek Cypriots] must avail themselves of the remedies provided – no matter how odious dealing with the authorities of the area which is occupied may be to them.”

“I think that this verdict by the European court is very relevant for us,” Liberman said, adding that in the Ulpana case the people went to live there in good faith, believing – because they received state mortgages to build on land parceled out by the state – that there was no problem with the land’s ownership.

“There is no reason not to give compensation [to the Palestinian owners] for the land,” he said.

One government official, however, disputed Liberman’s use of this case, saying it dealt with the right of refugees to property they fled, while in the Ulpana outpost case the Palestinians did not flee and were living nearby the land that they claimed.

Liberman said he thought it “grotesque” that at a time when the region was in flames and Iran marching towards nuclear weapons, the main question bedeviling the country right now was “five houses” in Beit El and the bill to legalize the outpost that will come to the Knesset on Wednesday.

Liberman said that he wanted to hear more about Netanyahu’s proposal to move the structures to an authorized tract of land in Beit El, and that he hoped a creative solution could be found. If no solution was possible, he said, “the only thing left would to vote for the law in the Knesset.”

As foreign minister, Liberman would undoubtedly feel the brunt of what is expected to be a wave of international anger if the Knesset passes such a law.

“I hope we will find a reasonable solution,” he said.

Liberman added that everyone, including the settlers, understood the need to find a “creative” solution, and to keep this case from turning into a precedent.

Liberman praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for saying that for every house moved from the Ulpana outpost, 10 others would be built in Bet El.

“I think the prime minister’s approach is correct, that all the organizations – all the left-wing organizations who think this is the way to stop the settlement enterprise – need to understand that there is a price,” Liberman said. “And I certainly think that if in the place of every house, 50 or 100 others will be erected, that sends an important message to the other side – that it is impossible this way to stop the settlement enterprise.”
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