Justice Ministry: Legal machinery for evacuating outposts is in place.
By DAN IZENBERG
The government on Wednesday asked the High Court of Justice to refrain from intervening in the way it dealt with illegal outposts. At the same time, the Justice Ministry issued a statement declaring that the legal machinery for evacuating the outposts was in place and that "the question of implementing this legislation was the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense."
On the same day that the High Court heard a petition by the Peace Now movement to demolish 18 houses built without permission in two illegal outposts, Harasha and Hayovel, the Ministry of Justice responded to charges in the Hebrew daily Ha'aretz that it had rejected four recommendations for legislation included in attorney Talia Sasson's report on illegal outposts.
During the High Court hearing, Peace Now's lawyer, Michael Sfard, charged that "the government intends to avoid enforcing the law." He said the state did not deny the facts or the legal issues in the cases of Harasha and Hayovel. Instead, it tried to hide behind the argument that the issue was political and diplomatic and therefore the court should stay out.
But Sfard charged that the state did not want the court to intervene because it intended to retroactively legalize the houses, even though the Civil Administration had issued demolition orders against all of them.
"The state has abdicated its responsibility," Sfard told the court. "In their utter lack of shame, they now say you should not intervene... We are fighting a rearguard action to enforce the law in the territories."
The government's representative, Attorney Yuval Roitman, said the dismantling of the illegal settlements involved security and diplomatic considerations which the government alone was responsible for. Furthermore, the government was entitled to establish its own set of priorities and timetable in dealing with the matter.
"This is not a convenient time to make decisions," Roitman said. "There will soon be elections and the entire picture is more complex than the way it was presented by the petitioners."
Attorney David Rotem, who represented the Binyamin Regional Council where Harash and Hayovel are located, argued that the matter was political rather than legal, and that the court should therefore not intervene. He also said apartments were all occupied and the residents, including many children, would be left homeless if the court accepted the petition.
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry was stung by the Ha'aretz report which listed four Sasson Report recommendations for legislative amendments that ministry officials had rejected.
The recommendations included setting a specific sentence for violating the law regarding the erection of illegal structures; introducing a requirement for a building permit for anyone wishing to move a mobile home into the West Bank; introducing a requirement that any construction outside the jurisdiction of a local or regional authority be approved by the defense minister; and introducing a requirement that land purchases in the West Bank by Israelis must be approved in writing by the head of the Civil Administration.
Ha'aretz also pointed out that the ministerial committee headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was supposed to submit its recommendations on the implementation of the Sasson report more than three months ago.
In the ministry response, Justice Ministry Spokesman Ya'acov Galanti said the report described only "partially the actions that have been taken by the Justice Ministry in response to the report and does not reflect the activities of the ministry to advance legislation that will address the phenomenon of illegal outposts."
The Justice Ministry said it had studied Sasson's recommendations and chosen those it considered most relevant.