Israel Cancels Plan to Put Electric Poles on Private Palestinian Land After High Court Petition

The plan, which was aimed at improving electricity supply to settlements and Palestinians, was challenged by a land owner in Israel's top court

Kabha on the land he owns, July 30, 2019.
Amir Levi

The military has walked back a plan to place electricity poles on private Palestinian land in the northern West Bank, after a petition filed by the owner to the High Court of Justice.

The plan aimed at improving electricity supply to settlements and Palestinians was challenged by Younes Ibrahim Hasin Kabha of Barta'a Sharqiya. The state, representing the army, claimed he had agreed to the plan, and the court refrained from ruling on the case after the state pledged to revise the plan last week.

The court rejected an appeal by the state in February to reject the petition filed against the so-called Rehan Plan, whose stated aim was to upgrade electricity in the area. The state said the land owner had initially agreed to the plan but changed his mind after the work began, though it said that following some meetings Kabha had agreed to let the work continue.

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The Israel Electric Company had apparently contradicted the state’s argument by telling the court that the land owner’s agreement had not been necessary and that it had the right to expropriate the land. In response, the state adjusted its reply to the court, saying it had initially issued expropriation orders and then canceled them after Kabha agreed to the plan. Kabha’s attorney, Kayis Nasser, denied his client ever agreed to the plan. The state then responded that it was not completely clear whether Kabha was actually the owner of the land in question.

Justice Neil Hendel said in court last Monday that he would issue a conditional order in the petitioner’s favor. A short time later during the session, which was also presided over by Justices Yosef Elron and Alex Stein, the state said it was reneging on its plan to place the poles, and that the plan was “off the agenda.” But the state also said it retained the right to seek a special permit if necessary.

Nasser commented: “The state’s reneging on its plan only after a court hearing speaks for itself. I regret the conduct of the state and the electric corporation, which gave contradictory and inaccurate accounts to the court with the aim of legitimizing illegitimate, aggressive action toward the Palestinian land owner.”

The IDF spokesperson’s office said in response: “The plan had been intended to improve electricity supply to area residents,” adding that there had been a dialogue to obtain the land owner’s agreement to placing the poles on his plot. “Following discussions and without giving up the state’s claims with regard to the process, the state and Israeli electric company have said that they intended to change the plan and advance it in accordance with existing permits,” the office stated. “A decision has not yet been made with regard to where the electric poles will be placed.”