No Lines Crossed

The pleasant surprise in the battle for the ?House of Contention? is the willingness of the law-enforcement authorities to assist and support a Palestinian who had been unjustly stripped of ownership.

talia sasson
Talia Sasson
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talia sasson
Talia Sasson

Reading the report-analysis about the so-called House of Contention in Hebron ("Crossing all the lines," by Nadav Shragai, Nov. 24), one might conclude that the Supreme Court was a supreme wart.

At best, the article renders the court suspect of stupidity, and at worst of pursuing a cause and creating an injustice, all out of a "political agenda." The justices, the article argues, were not confused by the "facts." They drew a circle around their target - to get those Jewish settlers out of that house. The rest didn't matter.

And so the House of Contention, which the settlers cynically call the "House of Peace," was harnessed to promote two political interests. First, to explain that the settlers lost in court not because justice is not on their side, perish the thought, but because the High Court of Justice is a political entity.

Second, to prove once more that Israel's Supreme Court has nothing to do with serving justice. The fact that it was the settlers who appealed to the court in the first place was omitted, for some reason.

The letter of the verdict tells us differently. The argument between the two parties of the petition - the settlers on the one hand and the Palestinian who had possession of the building before the settlers moved in - focuses on whether the transaction had been completed. There was a transaction, this is true, but one party says the deal was done and the other denies this, claiming he changed his mind.

The evidence that allegedly documents the Palestinian receiving the money - to which, according to Shragai, the court did not give any weight in its ruling - does not pertain to the question of whether the deal was completed. The police investigation into the affair revealed that some of the documents the settlers presented as proof of their ownership of the building were forged.

The Supreme Court ruled in this case as it has ruled in the past.

The Court said that the authorities must defend the rights of the owner of the asset out of a duty to maintain public order and defend the rights of property holders. Since the invasion was "recent," the court had an obligation to preserve the status quo before the invasion. The court also ruled that the question of ownership of the property will be determined in due time in a civil court.

This means that settlers are not permitted, at this stage, to possess the house. The Palestinian holder is entitled to regain the house until a court decides on the nature of the privileges over the house. And it means that the decision by the law-enforcement agencies to assist the Palestinian to preserve his claim is reasonable and legal.

It must be said that the ruling itself is not new. The court repeated a previous resolution - which the court cites in its ruling - about the authorities' duty to protect property holders from invasions to preserve public order.

The surprise lies elsewhere - in the willingness of law-enforcement authorities to assist and support a Palestinian who had been unjustly stripped of ownership.

It is a pleasant surprise, and the authorities in question - the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry, in this instance - should be encouraged to cross from the path of declarations to the path of action and evict the house's illegal occupants, the settlers.

Indeed, the High Court of Justice did not issue an order to evacuate the house. Once the authorized authority declares that it intends to evict the settlers as recent invaders, the court's order on the subject is rendered redundant.

All that remains for us civilians is to put our country to the test of action. Maybe, for a change, its next commendable actions will continue to pleasantly surprise us.

The writer is a former senior attorney at the State Prosecutor's Office and the author of the Outpost Report on government assistance to settlements.

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