Israel's AG Postpones Evacuation of 30 Houses in Amona Outpost

Buildings were built without permits on privately owned Palestinian land.

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Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has instructed the army not to demolish 30 buildings in the West Bank outpost of Amona, yielding to pressure from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

The buildings were built without permits on privately owned Palestinian land.

Last week, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Amona’s fate. The justices said that buildings on plots that had been at least partially legally purchased should be left intact until a lower court rules on whether to dismantle the joint ownership of such plots by dividing them into smaller parcels. Nevertheless, it added, “Plots that contain buildings but that weren’t partially purchased should be evacuated.”

The Justice Ministry held several discussions last week on how to interpret this ruling: Did it refer only to plot number 110, whose Palestinian owner petitioned the court, but which contains only a single house, or does it refer to the whole outpost, which includes 30 buildings on plots totally owned by Palestinians, but whose owners didn’t petition the court?

Some jurists argued that the ruling referred to the entire outpost. But the final decision was that since the state argued in court that only the land owned by the petitioner should be evacuated, and since the justices did not comment directly on this argument, it can be assumed that they accepted it. Weinstein went along with this interpretation and ruled that all the houses should be left standing except the one mentioned in the petition.

In an attempt to wash his hands of the affair, the attorney general then sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he stressed the need to enforce the law regarding building infractions in the territories, especially when it comes to privately owned land. In his letter, he said the numerous petitions that have crossed his desk lately paint an unsatisfactory picture of the situation, even when it comes to dealing with illegal construction on documented private Palestinian land − an issue that should be high priority, since it involves the protection of private property rights, he wrote.

“Enforcement of criminal law is an important tool in our general law enforcement armament in the territories, and this issue should be advanced, as I have pointed out in earlier letters to the minister of defense, which were mentioned in [this week’s] state comptroller’s report. But this does not obviate the need to set clear priorities that would guide the administrative authorities in administrative enforcement,” he continued, noting that high priority should be given in particular to evacuating houses built on private Palestinian land.

“The existing situation makes a mockery of the rule of law and infringes on human and property rights,” he concluded. “This is unacceptable.”

Weinstein’s letter did not address the contradiction between his call for removing illegally built houses and his decision regarding Amona.

Plainclothes policemen on patrol for the evacuation of Amona.Credit: Emil Salman

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