Cabinet to set policy on illegal W. Bank building

Deputy state attorney tells High Court that PM, defense minister will discuss legalizing structures built on state land in 5 outposts.

Mitzpe Avihai outpost demolition 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mitzpe Avihai outpost demolition 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The cabinet is to meet within weeks to discuss its policy on regulating illegal construction in five West Bank outposts, the state told the High Court of Justice on Thursday.According to Senior Deputy State Attorney Uri Keydar, cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser is organizing a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and other officials to “consolidate its [the government’s] response” to the issue of illegal buildings on state land in Ramat Gilad, Mitzpe Yitzhar, Mitzpe Lachish, Givat Haroeh and Ma’aleh Rehavam.
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Keydar’s comments were made in response to a 2006 Peace Now petition, which asked the court to order the state to evacuate and remove illegal buildings in the five outposts.
Some of the buildings were constructed on private Palestinian land and others on state land, but without the requisite formal planning permits.
Three of the outposts – Givat Haroeh, Ma’aleh Rehavam and Mitzpe Lachish – were on a list of 24 outposts constructed after March 2001, which past governments promised the United States would be demolished.
Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer slammed the state’s response to the court, including its announcement about the upcoming meeting.
“The response is a disgrace and an insult to the concept of the rule of law,” Oppenheimer said. “The Likud primary [set for January 31] and the settlers’ political strength has caused government officials to fall in line with gross violations of the law, and to defend them in the High Court of Justice.”
The Prime Minister’s Office would not confirm any details of the planned meeting. An official told The Jerusalem Post that there “will be a meeting with the ministerial committee that deals with this issue, to discuss how to move forward.”
The announcement about the meeting comes after Netanyahu met with Barak, Aharonovitch, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and other senior officials in March to discuss various options for dealing with the illegal buildings referenced in the petition.
In Thursday’s response to the High Court, the state said that meeting laid the foundation of a policy for dealing with illegal construction on both private and state land in the five outposts and in outposts named in other petitions. Measures would also be taken to regulate illegal construction on state land “in specific areas and according to other relevant considerations.”
However, the state did not provide any details regarding those areas or considerations.
The state’s response also emphasized the government’s attempts to reach agreements with settlers over outpost demolitions. Keydar noted that in November, the High Court agreed to the state’s request to delay the dismantling of illegal buildings on private Palestinian land in Givat Assaf until July 2012, to give state officials time to reach an agreement with the outpost’s residents.
Earlier this month, the court agreed to another three-month delay in demolishing homes built on private Palestinian land in Ramat Gilad, after the state said that officials were working toward a “peaceful resolution” to illegal construction.
During recent months, the state has conducted negotiations with settlers with the help of Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin.
On December 15, security forces demolished homes built illegally on private Palestinian land in Mitzpe Yitzhar, Keydar said. A recent check determined that the outpost residents had not rebuilt the homes, he added, but had constructed a new building on survey land, which is currently undergoing a process to change its designation to state land.
The state is taking steps to demolish that building, Keydar said.