Despite Israeli Defense Minister's Vow, Settlement Construction Continues

Ya’alon tells attorney general: Zero tolerance of unauthorized construction by West Bank settlers on Palestinian land.

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Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon wrote the attorney general a few weeks ago that he would show “zero tolerance” for illegal construction on private Palestinian land. Despite this pledge, a tour of the West Bank has shown Haaretz that construction is still widely ongoing.

“Such construction will be treated swiftly and decisively and we are devoting many resources to this out of recognition of the importance of the rule of law,” Ya’alon wrote Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Nevertheless, from Mitzpeh Asael in the southern Hebron Hills to the settlement of Itamar in the northern West Bank, there are clear signs of construction: in the outposts of Havat Yair, Nofei Nehmia, Rehalim, Givat Avot and in the settlement of Tekoa. The Civil Administration is indeed following through with its task of distributing demolition notices in the area, but few structures have yet to be raised.

Ya’alon wrote that he had recently instructed that new illegal construction be made subject to criminal proceedings on an ongoing basis. The letter was appended to the state’s response to a High Court of Justice petition regarding the evacuation of houses built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank outpost of Amona.

The petition is another phase in the struggle Palestinian landowners, represented by attorney Michael Sfard, are waging in the attempt to have the houses on their land evacuated. This time, the state was asked to respond to a contempt of court accusation by the petitioners after Weinstein announced the evacuation of one plot for now, which the petitioners called “a limited and partial interpretation of the High Court ruling.”

The High Court recently reiterated its previous ruling in the matter, in which the panel of justices ordered the evacuation of the entire outpost. Some 60 percent of the settled area of the outpost is on privately owned Palestinian land.

In its response to the contempt of court charge, the state is countering with the revolutionary claim that the right to petition the court in this matter is specifically that of the disposed landowners, a claim that could have major repercussions in terms of the right to petition the High Court.

“In the framework of priorities for the demolition of houses built illegally the state asks that weight be given to the existence of a concrete injured party. The presence of a concrete petitioner is essential to insure that a full factual basis is presented to the court, which in the natural course of things is in the hands of the party directly injured by the authorities’ act,” the state responded.

The High Court is to present its final ruling in the matter soon. In light of this petition and others dealing with settlements built on private Palestinian land, Weinstein held a meeting this week on the matter of illegal construction starts in the territories with the cabinet secretary and representatives of the Justice Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry and the Civil Administration. Weinstein said at the meeting that he was going to check weekly on illegal construction starts in the territories and mainly enforcement by the authorities.

A file photo of the Amona outpost.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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