Court orders work stopped for illegal buildings in Beit El

Five apartment buildings were being built on private Palestinian land; Beinisch says stopping construction should be high on state's priorities.

Construction (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The High Court of Justice ordered the state on Monday to see to it that the construction of five apartment buildings by settlers on private Palestinian land in Beit El be halted immediately.
It also ordered the Beit El local council not to connect the buildings to infrastructure.
In another hearing on Monday, the state informed the court that it was in the process of mapping the illegal fences built by settlers around Ofra and other Jewish settlements in the area and assessing their security needs.
After that, it would remove all the fences that were not essential for security and that prevented Palestinian farmers from Ein Yabrud and Silwad from accessing their land.
The Beit El petition was filed by the alleged owner of the land, and the petitions against the fence were filed by Palestinian farmers from the two villages. Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights provided legal representation for all of them.
Regarding the Beit El petition, the state acknowledged that it had issued stop-work and demolition orders against the buildings but had done nothing to implement them. In the meantime, the buildings were still under construction.
The state’s representative, Hila Gorni, told the court that the civil administration did not have enough resources to carry out all the orders that had been issued and that the Beit El structures were not high enough on the army’s list of priorities for the state to implement the orders against them.
The court made it clear it was impatient with the answer.
“‘Order of priorities,’ those magic words,” said Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch.
“Where does the state act in accordance with these priorities?” Justice Hanan Meltzer added, “You always say ‘order of priorities.’ Perhaps you don’t have enough resources.
They seem to be only enough to take down one illegal building a year.”
Beinisch pointed out that the illegal buildings were being constructed on private Palestinian land, a category that was high up in the order of priorities.
But Gorni said the building had been going on for a long time and the state was using its resources to prevent illegal construction in isolated areas of the West Bank, while it was still in its early stages.
The court issued a decision ordering the state to enforce the stop-work and demolition orders it had handed out and to freeze the situation as it was. It also issued a showcause order asking the state to demonstrate why the illegal buildings should not be destroyed.
In the petitions involving the illegal fences and other barriers erected by settlers, the court granted the state 90 days to complete its examination of the situation and determine which fences could be removed. In the meantime, the state promised that all requests by Palestinian farmers to access their land would be processed quickly.