Court dismisses lawsuit over Ulpana dispute

Lawsuit filed by settler-related organizations who claim ownership over lands of the Ulpana outpost near Beit El.

Crane removes belongings from Ulpana outpost 370 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Crane removes belongings from Ulpana outpost 370
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday night dismissed a lawsuit filed by settler-related organizations who claimed ownership over lands referred to as part of the Ulpana outpost near Beit El.
The dismissal, requested by the plaintiffs, could have significant consequences for developments at Ulpana as the lawsuit had hung over legal disputes surrounding the outpost.
The end of the lawsuit could mean that the settlers trying to maintain a foothold in the disputed area have decided to back off.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the organization Amana, is linked with the Yeshiva of Beit El and Al Watan, and is said to be involved with buying West Bank properties for settlers. The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Doron Nir-Zvi, who did not respond to inquiries by press time regarding why they withdrew the lawsuit.
Yesh Din represented most of the defendants in the lawsuit as well as in a petition to the High Court of Justice to press for removal of portions of the outpost.
It claimed that the dismissal constituted a final court ruling in favor of at least most of the Palestinian defendants.
Regarding a few Palestinian defendants, Yesh Din acknowledged that the court had only struck its case from the court docket, meaning in theory a lawsuit could be refilled against those defendants.
However, Yesh Din claimed that even those defendants who could be re-sued had not been at the center of the case until now, and that the key defendants had won their case.
Often a court will award costs against a plaintiff who files a lawsuit and withdraws it without either settling or going to trial, but here the court did not award costs to the defendants.
The lawsuit was filed in September 2011, three days before the petition for removal of portions of the outpost was due to be heard before the High Court.
Yesh Din claimed that the premature withdrawal of the lawsuit showed that it had been a mere stalling tactic to “throw salt in the eyes of the court and the public.”
It noted that the plaintiffs claimed ownership to portions of the land based on a contract of sale from 2000 that the police had already declared invalid.
The plaintiffs had claimed that the contract was valid and that, among other things, it was for the court, not the police, to determine a contract’s status.
In the case before the High Court, the state last week was given until January 1, 2013 to either destroy or remove the five buildings in dispute.
The state was also fined and ordered to pay NIS 7,500 to Yesh Din for delays, some of which had less concrete explanations and were not related to delays the court gave the state relating to the Jerusalem District Court case that was decided Monday.
The 33 families who had lived in the disputed buildings left at the end of June.
Previously, the state had been due to remove or destroy the buildings by July 1 and then by November 15.
The buildings being removed, according to the court, relying on the state’s opinion, were built on private Palestinian land outside a military seizure order which covers the land where Beit El is built.
There are nine remaining buildings on private Palestinian land, but Yesh Din never brought a petition for removal of those buildings, which were already inhabited when the petition was brought.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.