Police probe Kiryat Netafim settlement

Suspect violation of interim injunction against construction, residency in settlement.

Kiryat Netafim 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Kiryat Netafim 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Almost one year after Peace Now called on the state to demolish 15 illegally built houses in the Kiryat Netafim settlement in western Samaria, and after settlers violated a High Court interim injunction barring further construction or occupation of the houses, the state announced this week that it was conducting a police investigation into the matter.
Peace Now and its spokeswoman, Hagit Ofran, petitioned the High Court of Justice on August 27, 2009, demanding that the state issue stop-work and demolition orders against 15 houses under construction in the settlement. According to Peace Now, the houses were being built on land belonging to the state and to Palestinians within the boundaries of Kiryat Netafim. There was no approved plan for the land, and the settlers did not have building permits for the houses, Peace Now charged.
The petitioners also asked the court for an interim injunction ordering the settlers to stop construction on the site.
Originally, the state opposed the interim injunction, saying it was already taking action to issue stop-work and demolition orders. As a result, the court did not issue the injunction.
However, on September 17, 2009, Peace Now informed the court that the settlers were continuing to build and asked again for an interim injunction. This time the court acceded. On October 1, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein issued an interim injunction against the settlers, ordering them to stop building, marketing or inhabiting the houses.
Two months later, on December 29, Peace Now submitted a request to find the settlers in contempt of court for having violated the injunction because they had allegedly continued building the houses. The state admitted to the court that the settlers had indeed continued to build, but asked it to reject the petition nonetheless on the grounds that the government had limited resources and was empowered to act according to its own priorities in dealing with illegal construction in the territories.
It also said that it was taking steps to approve an outline plan that would retroactively legalize the houses.
The court was not satisfied.
On March 2, it demanded to know what the state intended to do about the settlers’ violation of the interim injunction.
In its response, the state filed a brief on Sunday informing the court that although there were no more signs of illegal construction on the site, six of the houses had been occupied since January.
“Because of concern that the interim injunction issued by the court has been violated, the head of the Civil Administration in Judea, Samaria and Gaza had asked the police to launch an investigation,” wrote the state’s representative, attorney Hila Gorney. “Following this, the police opened an investigation to examine these suspicions. The investigation has not yet been concluded.”
Peace Now issued a statement welcoming the police investigation, but added, “The government sends a double message to the settlers. On the one hand, it opens an investigation regarding the illegal construction. On the other, it allows the building violators to remain in the houses without legal permits.”