High Court to Mull Demolition of Illegal Houses in Legal West Bank Settlement

The original Palestinian landowners want their land back in Ofra, but the state argues that the houses’ fate must be decided with that of the entire settlement.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The High Court on Wednesday will consider a petition demanding that nine houses illegally built on Palestinian land in the legal settlement of Ofra in 2008 be demolished.

The original landowners and the Yesh Din human rights group have petitioned the court via attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharia.

Although the state says illegal structures on private Palestinian land must be demolished, it notes that the Ofra construction is inside the boundaries of a recognized settlement, so the fate of the nine buildings should be decided with that of the entire settlement.

The state has also said the defense minister has ordered the enforcement “of violations of planning and construction laws in Ofra …. It has been made clear to the community’s residents that the policy is to enforce the planning and construction laws.”

The state’s position remains ambiguous. In 2011 the Amana settlement movement began building dozens of housing units in Ofra. The state did not demolish them but rather promoted a plan to legalize them.

In an affidavit submitted this week, Gilad Altman, the defense minister’s adviser on settlement matters, said construction continues on Palestinian land. Aerial photographs from 2009 and 2012 show that 25 structures have been put up or enlarged. Altman did not mention what the state was planning to do about it.

The High Court’s last discussion on the petition took place in November 2009 before justices Dorit Beinisch, Ayala Procaccia and Yitzhak Amit. Beinisch and Procaccia retired without handing down a ruling. Now the issue will be discussed before Amit, High Court President Asher Grunis and Justice Miriam Naor.

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