A-G: Home demolitions are legal, but problematic

According to the law, Israel may demolish terrorists' homes within areas of Israeli sovereignty, but doing so could raise "significant legal problems," Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz informed the government on Thursday. The statement was included in a legal opinion submitted to the government following consultations between the army and the state attorney's office earlier in the day on the question of house demolitions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and many MKs have called for the demolition of the homes of Ala Abu Dhaim of Jebl Mukaber, who killed eight religious seminary students in March, and Husam Taysir Dwayat of Sur Bahir, who killed three Israelis on Wednesday. According to Mazuz, "In view of the rulings of the High Court of Justice over many years, it cannot be said that there is a legal obstacle to activating the authority to demolish homes," he said. "However, such action arouses significant legal difficulties." Mazuz did not elaborate on what the difficulties were or how they could exist if there was no legal prohibition regarding house demolitions. Mazuz added that "the political and security officials must take into account the various factors that have been listed [in the legal opinion] and be aware of the dangers they entail." Furthermore, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) must examine the specific circumstances of each case in coordination with the ministry of justice. According to the Justice Ministry spokesman, the ISA and the Military Advocate General's Office submitted opinions on the matter to the participants in the meeting. Meanwhile, Olmert on Thursday called for more severe punishment of Israeli citizens involved in terror attacks. "If we need to demolish houses, we'll demolish houses, and if we need to revoke benefits, we'll do that," he said, speaking at the Israeli Democracy Institute's Caesarea conference in Eilat. Olmert added that he had instructed ministers to initiate necessary amendments to the law. "Yesterday's terror attack in Jerusalem was a type we haven't experienced in the past," he continued. "It was an attack carried out against Israel from within Israel, by someone from the Israeli side of the barrier."