Beinisch Slams State for Building W. Bank Road Despite Court Order

Israel's High Court of Justice yesterday slammed the government's failure to enforce a stop work order on a West Bank road that traverses private Palestinian land.

The High Court of Justice issued an order to the state about a year ago to stop paving a road designed to cut travel time between the West Bank settlement Eli and its Hayovel outpost, part of which was built on private Palestinian land.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch yesterday gave the state 45 days to explain why the illegal construction was continuing and to justify the damage to private property. She also ordered the state to back up its explanation with aerial photographs.

Human rights organization Yesh Din had petitioned the High Court against the road, arguing that it was being built illegally on land owned by Palestinian residents from the nearby village of Karyut. The road prevents the village's residents from accessing 1,500 dunams (370 acres ) of their farm land, Yesh Din's petition said.

In April 2009 the High Court of Justice responded to the petition and issued an interim order to halt the road's construction. But the first violation of the order was reported just three months later.

In November last year the state issued a general response to the petition, asserting that it had rendered the road unusable. During yesterday's court hearing, state lawyers claimed they had no idea who was responsible for violating the order.

But Beinisch and her colleagues, justices Esther Hayut and Elyakim Rubinstein, ruled it was impossible the state did know what "was happening under its nose." Hayovel is also the focus of another petition, filed by Peace Now in 2005. That petition demanded the court order the demolition of 12 homes in the outpost and six others in the Harasha outpost near Talmon in the West Bank.

At first the state told the court it would demolish the houses and the High Court tried to set a timetable for it. But after an Israel Defense Forces officer from the outpost, Eliraz Peretz, was killed by Gazan militants last Passover, the prosecution put off the demolition pending further examination of the land's status.

The state is due to report on the progress of this examination by October this year.

"Regrettably, the State Prosecution is not familiar with the issue," The Mateh Binyamin regional council responded. "The order issued regarding the road has been fulfilled and the road has been blocked. The construction taking place today is part of ongoing maintenance work on a section of the existing road, to enable safe transportation for the neighborhood's children and residents. This section of the road is not part of the road [the petition refers to]."