State urges court to reject petition

Yesh Din appeal demands gov't enforce demolition orders for nine buildings in Rehalim outpost.

idf dismantling outpost settlers 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 1[file])
idf dismantling outpost settlers 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 1[file])
The state on Thursday called on the High Court of Justice to reject a petition calling on it to demolish nine permanent residential buildings in Rehalim, an outpost established on state and private land without government permission in 1991. The petition was filed by the watchdog organization Yesh Din earlier in the year, demanding that the government enforce demolition orders issued on August 4, 2008. In its response the state's representative, Hila Gorny, wrote that the Ministry of Defense has established a list of priorities for demolishing all illegal structures built by Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It has already published the list in its response to a petition by Peace Now demanding the demolition of illegal housing in the illegal outpost of Migron and attached the list as an appendix to its response to the current petition. The list includes eight situations in order of priority. The second highest priority calls for the demolition of houses "in the first stages of construction regarding which demolition orders have been issued in circumstances where it is important to demolish the buildings before they are completed and occupied." Gorny did not stipulate whether the nine buildings in Rehalim met the second criteria nor did she say when they would be demolished. According to Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard, the nine structures have been built "at breakneck speed. Work to level the ground began in November 2008, whereas at the time of the submission of this petition, less than four months later, nine large buildings stand at the site." On March 22, 2009, the court issued an interim injunction prohibiting all further work on the buildings. Gorny wrote that, since then, no further work has been done on the buildings. However, by the time the injunction was issued, three of the buildings had been linked to the infrastructure and occupied. In the Rehalim outpost, located close to the Ariel settlement in Samaria, residents insist that they have a right to build in their outpost. Any other conclusion is purely political, Rehalim secretary Yair Hamami told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The legal situation in his home community "is far from black and white," Hamami said. He pointed out that the outpost had been created with the support of past governments and the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division, which placed some of the caravans on the hilltop. According to the Talia Sasson report, the Ministry of Construction and Housing spent NIS 980,000 on infrastructure for the community, which is now home to 45 families. There are some 14 permanent homes on the site and another 30 caravans. It was constructed at the site where gunmen killed two Israelis, Rachel Druck and Yitzhak Rofeh in 1991. The outpost, which is one of the oldest in existence, has a confused status, Hamami said, where some ministries recognize it as a settlement and others consider it an outpost. Peace Now told the Post that although it considered all the construction there illegal, it believes that Rehalim is actually a settlement and lists it as such on its sight.