State opens criminal probe of Shiloh construction

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now says she recalled only one similar investigation, which was against Amanah.

Shiloh settlement in West Bank 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shiloh settlement in West Bank 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday ordered the police to open a criminal investigation into illegal building in the West Bank Shiloh settlement.
Notification of the investigation was given to the High Court of Justice, which in November asked the state to decide if it planned to hold such a investigation.
“This is a very unusual and important decision,” said attorney Michael Sfard, who filed a petition to the High Court in 2011 against illegal construction in Shiloh on behalf of Peace Now.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said she recalled only one similar investigation, which was against Amanah, the building arm of the settlement movement. It was dropped for lack of evidence, she said.
“I hope that this time it will be proven that criminal activity occurred in the West Bank with respect to building,” she said.
Such a judgment could prevent this illegal activity in the future, she added.
Already in November, the state informed the court that it was working on zoning plans, which would retroactively legalize the Shiloh building. Last month the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria advanced those zoning plans. It is expected that the administration will approve them in the coming months.
Still, the police will now hold a criminal investigation into the actions that led to the unauthorized building in Shiloh, which the civil administration is in the process of legalizing. It is unclear who the police will investigate.
Attorney Akiva Sylvetzky of Jerusalem, who represents Shiloh and its regional governing body, the Binyamin Regional Council, said the investigation was purely technical and designed to close the door on any allegations of illegality. To do this, he said, the police must first study the matter.
“It would be irrational for the state to press charges for illegal building when that building is being legalized,” he said.
The state has already said it intends to authorize the homes, he said. Plans to do so are in an advanced stage, Sylvetzky added.
He plans to ask the court to close the case and acquit his clients of any wrongdoing.