Purchase documents authenticating the continued presence of Jewish families in
the West Bank’s Amona outpost were forged, according to attorney Husam Yunis,
who filed a petition against the settlers at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on
The petition, which pertained to two property lots, followed a
similar one he had filed to the court in October regarding a third
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday asked all parties concerned
with the petition to provide it with a complete list of all petitions regarding
the outpost that were now making their way through the lower courts. Residents
of Amona and the nonprofit legal organization Yesh Din have also filed petitions
in the Beit Hashalom Court in Tel Aviv.
At issue is the fate of the small
community of 42 families who live on a hilltop on the outskirts of the Ofra
The community was first built in 1995 with NIS 2.176 million
from the Construction and Housing Ministry on land the state had designated as
private Palestinian property.
In 2008, Yesh Din, on behalf of the
Palestinian landowners, petitioned the High Court against the outpost and asked
that it be demolished. The court – in 2012 and in a series of previous rulings –
has consistently backed the Palestinians and Yesh Din in stating that the homes
must be taken down.
Amona families, however, have appealed, stating that
they had since purchased the property on which 16 of the structures are located,
from the Palestinian landowners.
In an obscurely worded ruling in July,
the High Court said that the structures on those plots could remain, pending the
adjudication of all claims before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. But it added
that the structures against which there were no purchase claims must be
The court did not, however, clarify how many of those 30
structures should be taken down.
The Amona families have since claimed
that the moment the High Court agreed to allow those 16 structures to stay, the
case had become about these structures and did not involve the remaining 30
structures, which they argued could now remain intact.
The Amona families
have further argued that Yesh Din and its attorney Michael Sfard cannot petition
against those structures because the identity of those lots’ registered owners
is unknown and the owners are not parties to the petition.
In August, the
High Court clarified that the case still involved the entire outpost and that it
had intended for the 30 structures to be removed, but that it would hear an
appeal of that ruling.
On Tuesday, it held a prolonged debate on the
One of the central questions, said Hani Ofek, one of the
attorneys representing the Amona families, was whether an absentee property
owner had rights in this case.
The inclusion of those absentee property
owners was unjust, Ofek said, because it robbed the Amona families of options
they would have if the landowners were parties to the case or if their
identities were known. In such instances, the Amona families could make attempts
to purchase the property or to offer the landowner compensation, the attorney
In the instances where homes were built on private Palestinian
property, the state must weigh diplomatic and security concerns against
individual rights, Ofek continued, but if the property owner were absent and
could not be found, that equation was irrelevant.
The Amona ruling would
also have implications for homes in other communities in Judea and Samaria, Ofek
Attorney Yehuda Ressler added that if the ruling held, then anyone
could submit an evacuation petition against a home, even if they had no
association with the matter.
Therefore, he argued, the petition should be
He charged that it was politics and not concern for property
rights that drove the petition, which he said had been filed by parties that
wanted to harm the settlement movement.
After 15 years of living in
Amona, the families there have rights that the court has not recognized, he
But later in the day, Yunis told The Jerusalem Post that the only
relevant question was the purchase claim.
“Those documents were forged,”
The landowners insist “that they have not sold their
property,” added Yunis, who has submitted documents to the magistrate’s court to
back up that claim.