High Court orders Shiloh construction investigation

High Court gives state 60 days to decide on investigation into unauthorized Shiloh construction.

Shiloh settlement in West Bank 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shiloh settlement in West Bank 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The High Court of Justice ordered the state on Tuesday to notify the court within 60 days regarding its intention to open a criminal investigation into unauthorized construction in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh.
The panel of three justices – Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut and Neal Handel – also ordered the state to update the court regarding the issue of continued construction plans in Shiloh.
The ruling came after the court heard a petition on Monday filed by Peace Now regarding unauthorized construction of residential housing units in the settlement, northeast of Ramallah.
Peace Now claims the construction, on three areas of designated state land, is illegal because the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council has not received appropriate planning permits from the Defense Ministry.
The state informed the High Court on Sunday that the Defense Ministry decided to retroactively approve building plans in Shiloh, a move that will legalize 119 residential units in the settlement.
The petition relates to three different areas in Shilo, one of which was officially zoned as agricultural lands, and which cannot be used for residential building. In order to legalize building on that land, the state must now undertake a public process, during which members of the public will be allowed 60 days to voice any opposition to the zoning changes.
Earlier this year Peace Now had contacted the Judea and Samaria regional police and the deputy attorney-general asking for a criminal investigation into the unauthorized construction by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, who is also named as a respondent on the petition. In Monday’s High Court hearing, attorney Michal Friedlander, for the state, said that that a decision has not yet been made regarding a criminal investigation.
“That’s something that the state attorney’s office is looking into,” said Friedlander, who told the court that “senior officials” were currently examining whether to open an investigation.
Attorney Michael Sfard, for Peace Now, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the state attorney’s office should open an investigation.
“It is embarrassing and disappointing that one needs to file High Court petitions to ensure criminal investigations into circumstances where there is no doubt that illegal construction is taking place,” Sfard said.
“This kind of inactivity is typical of law enforcement authorities over illegal construction in Israeli-controlled sectors of the West Bank.”
Attorney Akiva Sylvetsky, for the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, told the Post that even if a criminal investigation is opened it will not necessarily result in any indictments being filed against any individual.
The High Court said in its ruling that after the parties have submitted their reports, the justices will make a decision regarding how to continue with the petition.
Separately, the High Court of Justice on Monday upheld a state request to delay the demolition of the Givat Assaf outpost, located in the Binyamin region of the West Bank, which had been scheduled for removal in December.
According to the new schedule, the outpost would now come down in July.
But the state still intends to demolish several homes in December in two other outposts, Ramat Gilad and Mitzpe Yitzhar, which are partially constructed on land also classified as private Palestinian property.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.