Ulpana
Ulpana Hill. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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The state told the High Court of Justice on Thursday that despite its commitment it will not evacuate the Beit El settlement's Ulpana neighborhood by next week. It is now requesting another delay and a January 15 deadline.

The state added that it was not certain the outpost's houses, if dismantled, could be put back together again elsewhere. So far, 14 NIS million has been invested in the relocation plan.

The High Court of Justice ordered the state to demolish five buildings in Ulpana that had been built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Under a deal reached in June with Beit El Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, the outpost would be evacuated voluntarily. In exchange, Melamed's yeshiva would receive generous benefits and the Ulpana structures would be reassembled at the cost of NIS 14 million.

But Defense Ministry engineers have said it is impossible to dismantle and reassemble the outpost's housing units. Despite this, the state went ahead with the project.

At the end of June, the court granted the state's request to postpone the demolition to November 15; this would provide time to take the houses apart. The state said safety and planning issues were delaying the job. Also, a Palestinian working at the site where the houses were to be reassembled had been killed in a work accident.

Attorney Hani Ofek of the State Prosecutor's Office said the delays were due to the project's "innovation, complexity and the inexperience in similar projects."

It turned out that a structure to be dismantled consisted of concrete alone, with no iron, casting doubt on the reassembly plan.

Members of the Beit El local council said at the last council meeting that since there was clearly no point in dismantling the houses, Israel could stop wasting public funds on the effort. But council head Moshe Rosenbaum rejected this stance.

Michael Sfard, a lawyer for human rights group Yesh Din, called the government "insane."

"The state's request [to delay the evacuation further] proves again that the Israeli government has gone insane.

The idea of taking houses apart and gluing them together again is like treating the houses' stones as if they belonged to the Western Wall," said Sfard, who is helping the Palestinian owners of the land in Ulpana.

"It's not too late to save millions of shekels and invest them in housing, health and education instead of in this weird fantasy. For once the state should keep its commitment to the court about returning land to its owners."