High Court of Justice rules 30 Amona outpost homes should be destroyed, but allows appeal

No evacuation date has been set yet for the demolition; if executed 26 Amona families would lose their homes.

Amona outpost 370 (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Amona outpost 370
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
A High Court of Justice ruling on the fate of 30 structures in the Amona outpost late Wednesday night backed Yesh Din’s contention that buildings should be demolished, but did not set an evacuation date and left room for appeal.
The ruling is the latest twist in a long legal battle between Palestinians and settlers over the fate of one of the oldest West Bank outposts, located on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region.
The High Court had initially ruled that the entire outpost should be evacuated because it was built on private Palestinian property without proper permits. It issued its ruling in 2012 in response to a 2008 petition by Yesh Din on behalf of Palestinian landowners for 10 property lots on the outpost, and for representatives of three villages, whose residents owned the land on which Amona was constructed. Four of the lots had no structures on them.
But the state secured a number of court-approved delays to the demolition. In the interim, Amona residents presented evidence to the court that they had recently purchased portions of the five lots on which 16 of the Amona families live.
In an obscurely worded ruling in July, the High Court said that structures located on plots settlers claimed to have purchased could remain pending the adjudication of their claims before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
The structures in Amona on property against which there are no purchase claims must be removed, the court said.
The court did not state how many structures should be removed and how many could remain.
The ruling was followed by a letter from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, who stated that the interpretation was that one structure and a 40- meter stretch of the outpost’s access road should be removed, but that the rest could remain.
Amona residents have since removed that structure and that stretch of road.
But Yesh Din contended that the July High Court ruling meant that 30 homes should be removed. It immediately petitioned the court against Weinstein’s letter, accusing him of contempt by thwarting the court’s will for political purposes.
At the heart of the dispute between the state and Yesh Din with regard to the July court ruling lies a discrepancy between who is involved in the case.
When Yesh Din initially filed its 2008 petition, it did so against the entire outpost. Its understanding through the case has been that the issue was the entire outpost.
But the state argued that the parameters of the petition changed when the High Court accepted that purchase claims could be part of the case and as a result, allowed 25 Amona residents be included in the matter.
The state said, according to the new parameters, the case was now about the six lots and not the entire outpost. It argued that therefore, the only home that needed to be removed was a structure on the sixth lot against which there were no settler purchase claims.
On Wednesday night the court ruled that Yesh Din was correct and that the petition was about the entire outpost and was not limited to the six lots. It indicated that its July ruling had meant that the outpost structures not on five lots should be removed.
If executed this decision would mean that 26 Amona families would lose their homes.
However, the court did agree with the state’s contention that the absence of all these 26 Amona families from the petition was significant.
Given that the ruling would impact them, it ruled that they must now be signed onto the petition by September 1.
At that point, it said the families had a right to submit a written argument to the High Court about the matter.
Then, the court said, it would decide whether to hold another hearing, or to issue a ruling on their argument without a hearing.
Amona spokesman Avichai Buaron said that he did not believe those 26 families were part of the case, because the Palestinian owners of the land on which their homes were built had not petitioned the court.
He explained that the Palestinian petitioners represented by Yesh Din only owned five of the outpost lots. They can not argue that the adjacent property to theirs should also be evacuated, he said.
“This petition does not apply to us and that is what we will tell the court,” Buaron said.