Supreme Court of Israel.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The High Court of Justice is slated on Monday to debate the demolition of 17 homes on private Palestinian property in the Derech Ha’avot outpost located in the Etzion region of the West Bank.
At the heart of the case is a push by the Gush Etzion Regional Council to introduce a legal concept into West Bank land cases that would resolve property disputes between settlers and Palestinians through minor land swaps.
In 2010, the state declared its intention to legalize the Derech Ha’avot outpost, which is adjacent to the Elazar settlement and which is now home to 60 families.
It made this declaration to the High Court of Justice in response to a Peace Now petition to demolish the entire outpost, whose buildings were built without authorization. The case was then closed.
But a subsequent state survey of the land revealed that there were 17 homes on lots that were privately owned or partially owned by Palestinians.
In October 2014, Peace Now, together with the Palestinian property owners, petitioned the court to demolish the 17 homes.
The Gush Etzion Regional Council this month submitted a request to the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria to re-parcel the property on which the Derech Ha’avot outpost sits through a program that is known as “unite and divide,” in which land is swapped between the outpost and the Palestinian land owners.
The state has since asked the court for a 90-day delay to explore that possibility of a land swap, in which the lots on which the 17 homes stand would become state property in exchange for giving the Palestinian land owners other plots of land in that area.
The court, however, denied that request to delay the hearing and asked to hear oral arguments about the plan on Monday.
“This is legal acrobatics which is meant to confiscate land without calling it a confiscation and it is clearly not legal. If this idea would be approved, the settlers could build anywhere, being sure that the land will be given to them eventually,” said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
But Yehuda Shapira, a spokesman for the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said that the concept is globally known and accepted. The legal system in areas of the country where Israeli law fully applies makes use of this idea of re-parceling, he said. But, he added, it has never been an accepted legal principle in Area C of the West Bank.
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