Construction West Bank - AP
Construction in the West Bank settlement of Modi’in Ilit. Photo by AP
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The state must compensate a contractor to the tune of almost NIS 5 million, plus alternate lands, because it canceled a plan to build a West Bank settlement and transferred the land to the Palestinian Authority.

The Ramat Kidron project was conceived three decades ago, when Menachem Begin's government decided to build a ring of settlements east of Jerusalem that would sever the capital from the West Bank. As part of this program, the government authorized the establishment of Ramat Kidron in July 1981.

The settlement was slated to be built on privately owned Jewish land. A master plan was prepared, additional land was expropriated for an access road, and detailed plans were submitted to the planning authorities for approval. But as usual, the planning authorities took their time, so construction never began.

In 1988, a Likud-Labor unity government headed by Yitzhak Shamir decided that the settlement, now renamed Neot Kidron, would be built within a year. This time, the planning authorities okayed it, but the settlement still wasn't built, because the government had yet to build the ring road around Jerusalem on which it was supposed to be located.

When Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister in 1992, his government reconsidered the project; in 1994, it canceled it altogether. Shortly thereafter, the land that was supposed to serve as the settlement's access road was transferred to the PA under the Oslo Accords. Then, in 1998, Benjamin Netanyahu's first government gave the PA the land on which the settlement itself was supposed to have been built, as part of the Wye Agreement. This put an end to any chances of Ramat Kidron ever arising.

As a result, contractor Yitzhak Yanai and the Davka company sued the state for compensation. It was the state's negligence that led to the settlement not being built when the government first approved it, they argued, and while the state had the right to later transfer the lands to the PA, it is obliged to compensate those who were thereby hurt.

The state insisted that it was the contractor's negligence, not its own, that led to the settlement not being built. But this week, the Jerusalem District Court ruled otherwise.

The project was originally foiled by the excessive delays of the state planning authorities, the court said. Later, the state made a political decision to cancel the project, but instead of being definite, the court found, it pretended to make additional professional demands of the contractor.

"The option the authorities chose, of making temporary decisions in the guise of professional decisions, increased the damage to the plaintiff, causing him to make many efforts to continue to demand the settlement's establishment and to invest resources in it," wrote Judge Joseph Shapira.

Moreover, he said, the state broke its own promise to help build the settlement, then tried to pretend such a promise was never made.

He therefore ordered the state to pay the plaintiffs NIS 4.3 million, plus NIS 430,000 in court costs, and to give them 44.2 dunams of alternative land for free, without a tender.