Former Top Military Prosecutor Lives in House Built Illegally on Palestinian Land

Maurice Hirsch led the prosecution in the West Bank earlier in the decade; NGO founder Dror Etkes blames ‘the rot in the law enforcement system’ for the alleged conflict of interest

The Efrat home of Maurice Hirsch, a former chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, April 2018.

The house of a former chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, Maurice Hirsch, was built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land in the settlement of Efrat, says Dror Etkes, a longtime monitor of Israeli land policy in the West Bank.

“It’s ironic that a person who for years was in charge of the rotten prosecution system in the West Bank lives in a house that could have been built only because of the rot that spread throughout the law enforcement system,” Etkes, the founder of the nongovernmental organization Kerem Navot, told Haaretz.

In 2009 the Supreme Court rejected the contractor’s claim that the house had been bought from a Palestinian landowner, and in 2014 Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank ruled the structure outside the area of state-owned land.

Hirsch, currently a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, bought the house in 2012, shortly before he became chief military prosecutor in the West Bank. In that capacity, he was responsible for handling criminal charges against Palestinians.

Hirsch left the army in 2016 and today serves as an adviser to NGO Monitor, a group that tracks other NGOs critical of Israel. Replying to Etkes’ allegations, he told Haaretz: “That’s revolting and immaterial.”

Construction of the two-family house began in 1994 without permits, and without the structure appearing in a master plan. The state allocated the land to the builder.

Shortly after construction began, the Civil Administration ordered the house demolished but suspended the order when a new plan was submitted. In January 1999, the administration approved the plan and the status of the house, and the order was lifted.

But then the builders and the Civil Administration began a financial dispute that went to the courts. In 2004, a magistrate’s court ruled that the acquisition process had been proper. According to the ruling, the transaction was not registered because the sale put the seller’s life in danger. But in 2008, a district court reversed the ruling and said the builders “brought not a shred of evidence that they had bought the lots.”

A year later the Supreme Court rejected the builders’ appeal but, until 2014, the Civil Administration left the building recorded as being within the “blue line” marking state-owned land.

For its part, the Civil Administration told Haaretz an illegal construction file had been opened, after which a stop-work order was issued and the building’s owner was summoned before a supervisory subcommittee. At the start of 1999, the house was legalized in an approved master plan.

The administration, however, did not mention that in 2014 the house was reclassified as not being on state land.