High Court: Enforce Amona demolition

Petition demands explanation on illegal outpost from the govm't.

May 6, 2010 05:01
3 minute read.
High Court of Justice [file]

high court panel citizenship law 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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The civil administration is so busy enforcing the building moratorium in the settlements that it has no time to enforce demolition orders issued as long ago as 1997 against 35 illegal structures in Amona built on privately owned and registered Palestinian land, the state argued on Wednesday in a High Court of Justice hearing.

But during the hearing, the state admitted that three weeks after spotting a new building under construction in the illegal outpost, in violation of the moratorium and the planning and building laws, it had still not issued a demolition order against the structure.

This fact emerged during a hearing on a petition filed by Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, demanding that the state implement the demolition orders against all of the buildings in Amona.

“All this talk that all the efforts are being channeled to law enforcement against violations of the moratorium have proved false,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said. “If the state really meant what it said, it would have demolished this building immediately.”

The state’s representative, attorney Hani Ofek, rejected Sfard’s allegation.

“Our position is consistent,” she told the court. “The building is currently standing, while a demolition order is about to the delivered. This proves, contrary to what Sfard said, that there are law enforcement measures being applied against the new construction.”

Ofek also argued that even according to the order of priorities in demolishing illegal buildings set down by the state, the demolition of illegal buildings that are under construction supersedes illegal construction of Jewish homes on private Arab land.

Meanwhile, attorney Yaron Kosteliz, representing Amona, said that in the 1990s, the secretary of the nearby Ofra settlement bought the land upon which Amona now stands. However, the deeds and other papers only turned up on Tuesday afternoon and he only managed to present them to the court one day before the hearing.

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein questioned Kostelitz’s claim. “You made no ownership claims in your response to this petition,” he said. “If you say you bought the land, you could have bought it from someone who was afraid to admit that he sold it.

“You must prove your claim. Up until now, you have never said you bought it.”

Kosteliz also argued that the new building had nothing to do with the petition and was not located on the site of the buildings under question in the petition.

But Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch replied that it “was a relevant issue, when the state claims that all its resources are going into upholding the moratorium.”

At the end of the hearing, the court issued a show-cause order, shifting the burden of explanation to the state and asking it to explain why it was not implementing the demolition orders.

A spokesman for the Regavim organization, which call itself “the movement for protection of national lands,” said after the decision that it expected the High Court to issue a similar show-cause order on Thursday, during a hearing on a petition filed by the organization to demolish a Palestinian “outpost” not far from Amona.

Built around 1995 and located on a hilltop opposite the built-up area of the Ofra settlement, Amona is one of the oldest outposts.

It is best known, however, for the clashes that took place there in February 2006 when the army and the police demolished nine permanent homes that were built there without the proper permits. Some 200 soldiers, police, settlers and activists were injured when protesters took a stand inside the homes and refused to leave until they were forcibly evacuated.

The demolition came after Peace Now filed a petition before the High Court. Sfard represented the petitioners in that case as well.

The question of its legal status came up already in the late 1990s. In 1999, then- prime minister Ehud Barak allowed it to remain as part of an outpost agreement he made with the settlers.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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