Rejecting State Request, High Court Orders Demolition of West Bank Outpost to Go Forward

Justices criticize government for wishing to reopen closed cases over changed policy, adding that the state had not provided the kind of extraordinary circumstances that would force revisiting a court verdict.

Rejecting a state appeal, the High Court of Justice ordered on Monday the demolition of illegally-built structures in the Ulpana neighborhood.

The ruling came after state appealed to the High Court on Friday, requesting it reconsider its ruling to evacuate the Ulpana neighborhood, part of the West Bank settlement of Beit El, and tear down the structures there, which were built on private Palestinian land.

The Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El.
Emil Salman

That day, the state cited the difficult ramifications an evacuation is likely to have for Beit El residents.

On Sunday, during a hearing regarding the state's request, the court criticized Israel for not fulfilling its legal commitment to demolish the outpost. Justice Uzi Fogelman said that "when the state claims it will do something, we do not imagine that it will not be done. There is respect between the branches."

In the ruling issued Monday, Supreme Court President Ahser Grunis along with Fogelman and Justice Salim Joubran rejected the state's request, saying the illegal Ulpana structures would have to be evacuated by July 1.

The justices wrote that it was especially important for the state to honor its obligations to the High Court, adding that, by "accepting the state's position, according to which the need to revisit policy is a reason to reopen a finalized process, my lead to difficult consequences."

"Policy, in its very nature, isn't a static thing. Will the state request to review processes that ended in a verdict every time a policy is reconsidered!?" the court asked, adding that a change in policy was not a reason to divert from the finality of a verdict," the justices added.

The justices went on to say that the "authority to reopen a finalized legal procedure, assuming that it exists, is reserved for unusual situations and extraordinary circumstances."

"Those circumstances have not been presented in this case, even if it does raise difficult question of public and social policy," they added.

The state had previously pledged in court to implement the demolition orders for the neighborhood buildings, but last month it asked for 90 days to reevaluate its policy on enforcing demolition orders for illegal buildings in the West Bank, as it takes into account strategic, public and operative considerations together.

According to legal experts, the government's request represents a problematic move - breaking the accepted rules for the relationship between the executive and judicial branches - that would put the country in a difficult position.