High Court Criticizes Israeli Government for 'Zigzagging' on Settlement Construction

The government reverses its position on the construction of a new neighborhood in the Alei Zahav settlement, as Ulpana residents file petition against the High Court.

High Court judges on Sunday condemned the Israeli government for "zigzagging" on its decisions regarding settlement construction in the West Bank.

On Sunday, the High Court discussed the petition by Shaarat Abu Sharifa, a Palestinian woman from Kafr al-Dik, who requested that the state halt the construction of a new neighborhood in the neighboring settlement of Alei Zahav since its access road crosses her land illegally.

The government's position opposed the use of the access road, if it was in fact on private Palestinian land. However, after it was revealed that this was the case, the state changed its position. A government representative, lawyer Uri Keidar, requested permission to use the land, stating that there is no alternative access path.

During the Sunday morning hearing, Justice Miriam Naor criticized the government's change in position on the issue. Maor told Keidar that "the government zigzagged here." In response, Keidar, on behalf of the government, requested at least a year to propose an alternative for the road. Naor replied "the words 'at least,' are the most offensive." Justice Esther Hayut asked, "why does it take so long to make a professional decision? Why is it impossible to work in a more reasonable timeframe?"

As the hearing concluded, the justices issued the government an order demanding an explanation as to why the road is still in use. Regarding the petition to halt construction, the justices granted the government a period of one month, before the court will reconvene to reach a final decision.

Meanwhile, a couple, residents of the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, filed a petition in the High Court together with The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, against the panel justices and Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, following their rejection the government's petition to reevaluate the decision to evacuate and demolish the neighborhood.

The couple also demanded that the demolition order be pushed back in anticipation of a Jerusalem District Court ruling regarding the ownership of the land on which the five houses in question were built.

The couple complained that they were not involved in the petition filed by the Palestinians claiming ownership of the land. The Ulpana residents claimed that they paid for their homes in full over a decade ago, and their homes must not be demolished.

Two days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conevened a special committee to discuss the destruction of the five houses in the Ulpana neighborhood. In discussions that have continued for weeks, the possibility of forming a law circumventing the high court has been raised, in order to restore the status of the homes in question. The discussions last weekend also included Shaul Mofaz, Kadima Party chairman and recently appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

The high court rejected the government's request to re-open the case concerning the evacuation and demolition of the Ulpana section of Beit El. The ruling decided that the government committed to the evacuation and demolition of the houses by July 1, 2012, andd there are no extenuating circumstances sufficient enough to warrant reassessment of a High Court decision.

Read this article in Hebrew

Construction in the new neighborhood of Alei Zahav.
Moti MIlrod