Israel Aims to Build at Settlement Despite Supreme Court Order

Project at Beit El, in defiance of court order to demolish two buildings at site, is exception to current, unwritten policy against West Bank settlement construction.

Chaim Levinson
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Illegal construction work in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.Credit: Azmi Badeer / Yesh Din
Chaim Levinson

The Civil Administration in the West Bank is advancing a construction project that would legitimize two structures built without permits in the settlement Beit El, even though the Supreme Court ordered their demolition by the end of the month. The buildings, built by contractor Meir Dreinoff, are located on private Palestinian land west of Beit El, near the security fence surrounding the settlement.

According to the government, the land on which they stand is part of territory appropriated for security purposes, on which most of Beit El’s houses are built. In 2010, attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of the organization Yesh Din, requesting that the structures be demolished. The court then issued an interim order freezing further work on the buildings.

At first, the government agreed and committed itself to demolishing the buildings, but later rescinded its commitment and decided to issue building permits instead. Before the permits had been issued, Supreme Court justices ordered that the illegal structures be demolished. After the ruling, the Civil Administration held a hearing aimed at advancing the construction plans. This case has been an exception – recently, the government has not been approving construction in the West Bank. Following these efforts, Dreinoff and the government have petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel the demolition orders, but their petition was denied and the court reiterated its order to demolish the buildings by the end of July.

Now, instead of preparing to carry out the demolition, the Civil Administration is continuing to fight the ruling. Two days ago, an additional hearing was held by the administration’s Planning and Construction Council to secure final permits for the structures, which will apparently be issued on Sunday. Later, the contractor and the Beit El local council are expected to petition the Supreme Court yet again, claiming that the demolition order must be canceled because they have a legally issued permit.

In the meantime, the settlers are ramping up their efforts to preserve the buildings. Shay Alon, head of the Beit El local council, has moved his office to one of the buildings, despite the fact that the demolition order prohibits them from being inhabited. On Sunday, MK Oren Hazan (Likud) is expected to move his office there as well. On Wednesday, dozens of Beit El settlers blocked Route 60, the main thoroughfare between Nablus and Ramallah, and burned tires on the road. The Israel Police dispersed the demonstration.

In response, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, which is responsible for the Civil Administration, issued a statement. “The government is committed to the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court and is preparing to carry out its orders. At the same time, with regards to the land where the illegal structures are located, a planning application was submitted to local authorities and is currently being considered, in coordination with approval from the government.”

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