Court Stops Demolition of Suspected Terror Accomplice's Home in East Jerusalem

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor dissenting voice in 2-1 decision granting the family’s petition.

Olivier Fitoussi

The High Court of Justice has granted the petition of a family of a suspected accomplice in a terrorist attack to prevent the demolition of their East Jerusalem home.

The IDF had previously served a demolition notice on the family of Abed al-Aziz Meri, who faces two charges of premeditated murder after allegedly being involved in the murders of a rabbi and soldier in the Old City last October. But on Thursday a three-justice tribunal handed down a 2-1 decision in favor of the family.

Supreme Court justices Menachem Mazuz and Anat Baron ruled to cancel the demolition order, while Supreme Court President Miriam Naor dissented.

Baron now joins five other Supreme Court justices – more than a third of Israel’s top court – who have argued, in a series of recent rulings, that the court should reconsider the legality of demolishing terrorists’s homes. Last November, Naor rejected a request to allow an expanded panel of justices to reconsider that question.

Meri, 21, from Abu Dis in East Jerusalem, allegedly convinced Muhannad Halabi to die as a martyr and obtaining the knife that was used to murder IDF soldier Aharon Bennett, 21, and Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41. Bennett’s wife and infant son were both wounded in the attack. Halabi’s home was demolished in January.

Mazuz said Meri had lived in student housing for the past three years and not in his parents’ home. In his opinion, he said, Meri did not live in the family home, adding that the court had no authority to act against the petitioner’s home. This is now the fourth case in which Mazuz has opposed in principle using regulations that allow for the demolition of terrorists’ homes.

Baron noted the government had not claimed that the family was involved in the murders, or even knew about Meri’s involvement prior to the attack. She also said Meri had spent most of his time far from his parents’ home and that they should not be blamed for his actions. She wrote that deterrence is without doubt essential, but that when terror increases, the requirement for society to examine the appropriateness of the means it uses to fight terror must also increase.

Naor wrote in her dissenting opinion that the use of demolitions raises complex questions – particularly in light of the harm sometimes done to innocent people in such cases. However, she added, the courts have always recognized these problems over the years and ruled that the use of these regulations is a necessity, given the chance that its use may prevent bloodshed.

On Wednesday, the IDF Civil Administration demolished the Hebron home of Ihab Fathi Zakaria Masudi, the Palestinian terrorist who stabbed Genadi Kaufman multiple times near the Tomb of the Patriarchs last December. Masudi was shot and killed by police during the attack, while Kaufman, 41, succumbed to his wounds three weeks later.