Text size

The Supreme Court took an unusual step this weekend in rejecting a petition to stop illegal construction at a settlement outpost near Ramallah. Justice Neal Hendel denied the request despite the fact that, at the initial hearing on the matter, the state prosecutor told the High Court the building activity violates the terms of the settlement freeze order as promised to the U.S. government.

This marks the second time in four weeks that Hendel has rejected a request for a temporary injunction to stop settlement building without first verifying the government's position. The justice also refused to move up the petition hearing on the outpost in question, Givat Habrecha - a hearing he himself had set for the coming November. Video footage taken at both sites shows the Civil Administration and police ignoring the continued violation of the freeze order.

Michael Sfard is the attorney representing the petitioners: three residents of the nearby Palestinian community of Al-Janiya, the village council head and the advocacy groups Bimkom and Yesh Din. Yesterday Sfard lamented that Hendel's ruling set "a dangerous precedent of reconciling with a violation of law, and is an indication that after the Israel Police and State Prosecutor's Office, the last bastion of the rule of law - the Supreme Court - is on the verge of collapse."

Sfard said the decision "does not protect the rights of Palestinians from the ideological criminality of the builders of settlement outposts."

The request for a temporary injunction indicated that several permanent structures had been built within a short time period at the outpost, an extension of the settlement of Talmon. The outpost had included some 62 housing units even before the filing of the petition, which concerned 12 additional homes under construction.

The petitioners presented the court with a fact sheet that had been distributed by the Talmon residents' committee on November 26, the day the freeze order went into effect. "Given certain political developments, we are making every effort to advance all possible construction before the decree is implemented," the committee stated on the document. "We are preparing to carry out ground work over the next few nights, and ask for your understanding and patience, especially with all things related to the residents of Neveh Talmon [an alternate name for Givat Habrecha], and particularly from those families living close to the work."

In addition to violating the freeze order, the construction is allegedly being conducted without building permits and in defiance of work-stoppage and demolition orders previously issued to outpost residents.

Last week, after Hendel refused to issue an interim injunction to move up the petition hearing, activists working for Bimkom and Yesh Din took photographs showing settlers significantly increasing the pace of construction.

According to the latest petition, "Failure to issue an injunction order will be viewed as legitimizing massive illegal construction, and prove that the current law-enforcement authorities are not meeting their responsibilities."