Supreme Court head says state promises to act against illegal settler construction but never does.
By DAN IZENBERG
"Your answers are so general and so noncommittal that we have to give this matter serious thought," Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch told the state's representative at the end of a hearing Wednesday on a petition calling for the state to act on its own orders and dismantle housing it declared illegal in the West Bank outposts of Hayovel and Haresha.
The petition was filed almost four years ago by Peace Now. It has taken the state almost all this time to inform the court that it will not demolish the homes for now because it is operating against illegal Jewish construction in the territories according to an order of priorities that it has established.
The housing in Hayovel and Haresha is low down on the list, the state's representative, Gilad Shirman, told the court.
Beinisch made it clear she was dissatisfied with the state's position.
"For years, we have been hearing from you about demolition orders that the authorities issue," she told Shirman. "But each time, nothing happens. You keep saying the law must be observed, and this is obvious. But, then, it is your duty to honor what you say."
In September 2005, Peace Now filed a petition calling on the state to carry out its own orders to demolish 12 buildings in the Hayovel outpost (south of the settlement of Eli) and six buildings in Haresha (near the settlement of Talmon). Haresha was established in 1995 and Hayovel in 1998.
The buildings were built on survey land, whose ownership is unclear and under investigation, except for two units in Hayovel which were built on private but unregistered Palestinian land.
None of the buildings had permits.
The state agreed that the structures were illegal and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria issued orders to demolish them. However, it did not act on these orders.
Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice asking it to order the state to implement the orders. It also asked for an interim injunction prohibiting settlers from moving into the apartments that were still vacant. Before the request was heard in court, all of the apartments were inhabited by settlers. On November 23, 2005, the court issued a show cause order instructing the state to explain why it had not demolished the buildings.
It took three years and 20 postponement requests by the state until, on October 27, 2008, it finally presented the court with a list of priorities for acting against illegal Jewish construction in the West Bank. The list included eight priorities in descending order.
The first called for acting on court-ordered demolitions. The second called for demolishing illegal building in its first stages. The third called for demolition of illegal construction on registered private Palestinian land. The fourth called for demolition of construction on land that was unregistered and did not belong to the state. The fifth was demolition of construction in outposts established after March 2001. The sixth was demolition of construction in outposts established after that date. The seventh was demolition of construction in areas regarding which there was no approved outline plan. And finally, demolition of all remaining illegally built structures.
Peace Now's lawyer, Michael Sfard, blasted the state, saying that after waiting for three years, he had expected it to propose a program, including a timetable, for demolishing all the illegal Jewish building in the territories.
He also charged that the state was not even sticking to its own order of priorities. For example, it announced last month that it would not implement demolition orders against nine homes built illegally in the settlement of Ofra, even though the land was owned by Palestinians and registered as such in the land registry.
The court will hand down its ruling on the Yuval and Haresha petition at a later date.
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