(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the demolition of 15 unauthorized homes in the Derech Ha’avot outpost of the Elazar settlement in Gush Etzion. The order is to be carried out by March 6, 2018.
Another two homes, which are empty, must be taken down by the end of this year, the court ruled.
The verdict comes after a 13-year legal battle against the small hilltop community of some 60 families, built as a contiguous extension of Elazar.
News of the court decision set off a political firestorm among right-wing ministers and parliamentarians, who immediately attacked the court for supporting the latest petition against the 17 settler homes, which was filed by Peace Now in 2014.
“The extreme Left has despaired of persuading the nation to establish a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
So it has bypassed public opinion by using the legal system as a tool to enforce the policies of the minority on the majority,” Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi Party head Naftali Bennett tweeted.
The Derech Ha’avot decision only further erodes public confidence in the court, he said.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) retorted that Bennett clearly needs a civics lesson.
“The court’s decision has nothing to do with the conflict between us and the Palestinians.
This is about who we are and what values we stand for,” Livni said.
“The education minister must understand once and for all that democracy is not a tyranny of the majority, but rather a system of values and rule of law that is preserved by the High Court of Justice,” Livni said.
According to the 2005 Talia Sasson report on West Bank outposts, Derech Ha’avot was created in February 2001 with NIS 300,000 from the Construction and Housing Ministry.
Within a year or two of the outpost’s creation, Palestinians from the nearby town of al-Khader had turned to the ministry with claims of ownership.
A state survey of the property determined that 43 of its structures were located on state land. But the survey also clarified that 17 of those structures were built on land privately owned by Palestinians and as a result they must be taken down.
The state is working to authorize the remainder of the outpost. But the process has gone slowly due to appeals by Palestinians who claim ownership of the lots on which the 43 other homes are built.
Peace Now said of Thursday’s ruling: “This verdict exposes, yet again, the government’s attempt to bend the law for the benefit of settlers. We hope that the verdict will be implemented fully and in a timely manner, and that the state will abstain from assisting the theft of private Palestinian lands in other cases as well.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl said: “I urge the prime minister to immediately enact legislation to protect the government’s dignity and that of the [Derech Ha’avot] residents, who acted in good faith and with the government’s encouragement.”
The court ignored legal options that are used in similar situations around the world and chose instead destroy the homes and harm the residents, he said.
The Land for Israel Caucus said the ruling showed that legislation is needed to deal with the overall issues of unauthorized homes in Judea and Samaria, rather than allowing the High Court of Justice to tackle the issue in a piecemeal fashion.
Right-wing politicians, including those belonging to Land of Israel Caucus, have prompted such legislation in an attempt to save the demolition of the Amona outpost, in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.
The ministry has ruled that the 40 families who live there must be evacuated by the end of December.