Israel's High Court: State Must Explain Why West Bank Homes Shouldn't Be Razed

The state has 90 days to show why 17 homes in a Gush Etzion outpost, built on private Palestinian land, have not yet been demolished.

A house in the illegal Netiv Ha'avot outpost, in Gush Etzion.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's High Court of Justice issued a show-cause order on Monday, giving the state 90 days to explain why 17 homes in the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot, which were built on privately owned Palestinian land, should not be demolished.

Among the structures that may be slated for demolition is the home of Ze’ev Hever, the secretary general of the Amana settlement movement.

Netiv Ha’avot was established near the settlement of Elazar in the Gush Etzion area, south of Jerusalem, in 2001 – a time when the Israel Defense Forces limited Palestinians' freedom of movement following the outbreak of the second intifada. In 2002, the Palestinian owners of the land in question filed a petition with the High Court seeking the return of the property, but the legal proceedings were halted when the state committed to verify the ownership of the land.

In 2008, another petition was filed by the owners and the left-wing Peace Now movement, demanding demolition of the structures that had been built on the land. The state again said it would clarify ownership rights, through a land survey, promising to demolish any structures built on privately owned Palestinian land. Based on that development, Justice Edmond Levy rescinded the petition in 2010.

Four years later, the state announced that it had completed the survey and had found that, although some of the land in question was state owned, 17 homes — the ones subject to the court’s show-cause order – were indeed built on Palestinian land. These include Hever’s house, to which he moved from Kiryat Arba outside of Hebron.

Despite the state’s promise to demolish structures built on land owned privately by individual Palestinians, none of the buildings have yet been razed and instead massive construction has begun there.

In October 2014, the Palestinian owners and Peace Now renewed their demand for the demolition of the homes. The state did not submit a formal position in response, but in the interim the Gush Etzion regional council has sought to effect a land swap. The aim: to reapportion the property so that the Palestinian owners would be given other land on the outskirts of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost in exchange for the land on which the settlers have built their homes, which would become state-owned land.

In response, the state has asked that any hearing on the matter be deferred by half a year so it can consider the matter. This is the first time the state has said that it is prepared to declare that Palestinian land on which there has been illegal settlement construction be defined as state land. But now, the High Court, as noted, has instead given the state 90 days to explain why the homes should not be demolished.