State agrees to court order temporarily halting illegal construction in Kiryat Netafim settlement

State agrees to court or

A government decision to oppose Peace Now's request for an interim injunction against the illegal construction of 15 houses in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Netafim, about 30 km. east of Tel Aviv, proved mistaken when building continued despite stop-work orders issued by the civil administration. The case involves a petition against the illegal construction in which Peace Now called on the High Court of Justice to order the state to demolish the homes and asked for an interim injunction to suspend construction until the court ruled on the petition. The court, in accordance with the state's opinion against issuing an interim order, originally refused to do so. But last week, after learning both from the petitioners and the state that construction was continuing despite the civil administration's stop-work orders, the court changed its mind and issued the interim injunction. The state also changed its mind and, in a second opinion to the court, dropped its objection to Peace Now's request. The state's first response, in which it opposed the interim injunction, drew considerable attention, because it marked the first time it had done so since Peace Now and Yesh Din began their campaign to force the state through the High Court to demolish illegally built housing in settlements and illegal outposts. The most famous of these petitions involved the illegal outposts of Amona and Migron. In all previous petitions in which the state not only acknowledged that the building was illegal but had itself issued demolition orders, it did not oppose the petitioners' requests for interim injunctions. In the case of Kiryat Netafim, it did. The petitioners were concerned that the state's response this time was based on pressure from right-wing politicians and settler lobbyists who accused the State Attorney's Office of kow-towing to left-wing organizations like the petitioners. However, there was a difference between Kiryat Netafim and all but one of the previous petitions. In the case of Kiryat Netafim, the petition was filed before the civil administration's supervisory subcommittee on building had heard the settler's appeal against the stop-work orders. The subcommittee heard the petition a few days after the court rejected Peace Now's request for an interim injunction. Although it did not issue demolition orders, the subcommittee ruled that the stop-work orders would remain in force. Nevertheless the settlers continued to build the houses. The state and the High Court then changed their minds about the interim injunction. Peace Now spokeswoman Hagit Ofran acknowledged to The Jerusalem Post that in light of the developments, and the difference between Kiryat Netafim and the previous cases of illegal construction, she could not be certain that the state's initial opposition to the interim injunction signaled a change of policy on the part of the State Attorney's Office toward illegal settler construction.