Court gives state 60 days to explain why it won't evacuate homes in settlement of Ofra

Court criticizes settlers for giving "the impression that activities were carried out with the goal of creating new facts on the ground."

settlement ofra 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
settlement ofra 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice issued a conditional order Tuesday giving the state 60 days to justify its opposition to enforcing an evacuation and demolition order for nine homes in the Samarian settlement of Ofra. In its ruling, the court criticized settlers for what it described as giving "the impression that activities were carried out with the goal of creating new facts on the ground and in order to thwart the issuance of an interim order." Palestinians have argued - and the court agreed - that the nine houses are built on privately owned land held by residents of the neighboring village of Ein Yabrud. The organizations Yesh Din and B'Tselem had filed a petition with the court on behalf of the Ein Yabrud residents, addressing the nine houses. But even though in June, the IDF's representative had said in the name of the defense minister that the houses had in fact been built illegally on Palestinian land and must therefore be destroyed, Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed the court Sunday that he would not carry out demolition orders against the houses at this time. It was this opinion that the court wanted clarified in the next 60 days. Attorney Akiva Sylvetsky, who represents the Ofra Council in the efforts to save the houses, said Tuesday evening that he had not seen - or been informed of - the ruling. Sylvetsky and other members of the settlers' legal team argue that the entire settlement of Ofra - including the area on which the houses are built - was okayed by the military authorities. In June, the court issued an interim measure that forbade anybody to live at the site of the nine houses or to connect the houses to the community's infrastructure, including electricity and water. But according to the court ruling Tuesday, people had moved into the houses between the time of the petition's submission and the issuing of the interim order. It was this action that spurred the court's terse response about the "creation of facts on the ground". "We are happy that the High Court rejected the position of the defense minister, but are concerned that even the court surrendered to the settlers who populated the houses even though they knew the court was going to issue an order prohibiting [their living there]," said attorney Shlomi Zeharia from the Yesh Din legal team. "The time has come for an Israeli authority - either the government or the courts - to clarify who is in control in the West Bank," Zeharia said. "Currently the law of the jungle is in charge."