High Court Approves Demolition of Five Terrorists' Houses

House demolitions are permitted because of their deterrent effect, the court reiterates.

A Palestinian woman walks amid the rubble of a house after Israeli security forces demolished the homes of two convicted Palestinian terrorists in Jabal Mukkaber in East Jerusalem, October 6, 2015.
AFP

The High Court of Justice has approved the demolition of five houses, among them those of the Palestinians who killed the couple Naama and Eitam Henkin toward the start of the current wave of terror attacks.

The court ruled against the demolition of one house, belonging to a member of the cell that killed Malachi Rosenfeld in a terror attack, on the grounds that the house was rented, not owned by the man’s family.

The court rejected a petition for another hearing on the policy of house demolitions, saying it had rejected the motion last year. In Thursday's  hearing, the three-member bench reiterated the position of dozens of previous rulings.

“House demolitions are indeed a harsh and difficult step, especially because of harm to the members of the terrorist’s family who often did not assist him and did not know of his plans,” the court said.

“But given the deterrent power of the use of this regulation, sometimes there is no choice but to use it. When the actions attributed to the suspect are very serious, use of the extraordinary sanction of demolishing a house might be justified for reasons of deterrence.”

Regarding the effectiveness of house demolitions, Justice Miriam Naor said she had received documents from the state indicating that militants who planned attacks did not follow through because of the implications for their family and home.

Justice Noam Sohlberg addressed the argument by some petitioners of discrimination in house demolitions. The petitioners cited the case of the Jewish killers of the teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir last year; in that case, there were no house demolitions.

“The Jewish public in general ... resists incitement,” Sohlberg said, adding that all segments of the Jewish community denounced Abu Khdeir’s murder and that of the Dawabsheh family earlier this year. Such across-the-board condemnation “is not the case on the opposite side,” Sohlberg said.

Regarding the petition granted against the demolition of the house of one of Rosenfeld’s killers, the court conditioned cancellation of the demolition order on the landlord evicting the family by Tuesday.

The court also granted petitions on procedural issues. Among them, Naor said more time should be given to families to petition against demolitions.

She said a summary of the evidence against a suspect should be appended to a demolition order. But a key petition was denied — that an expert opinion by an engineer be required.

Also discussed was the matter of compensation for nearby apartment dwellers if these homes are damaged during a demolition. The state said it was not obligated to provide such compensation but agreed to go beyond the letter of the law and provide compensation under certain conditions.

The state submitted a list of 10 house demolitions since 2013, and the time periods between the court’s issuing of the order and the demolition.

Justice Hanan Melcer said he wanted to see the list because some politicians “say the courts are the ones delaying the demolitions, and if the state is delaying them we want to know why.”

The list showed that half the demolitions were carried out within less than a week after the verdict was handed down, but in other cases months passed between court approval and the demolition, and in one case the house was not demolished for operational reasons.

Last month, Justice Uzi Vogelman’s order delaying demolitions until petitions could be heard, and requiring the state to respond within five days, was greeted with harsh criticism on the right.