Settler Given Year to Remove Vineyard on Palestinian Land

High Court of Justice and prosecution agree to postpone Zvi Strock’s evacuation ‘for the sake of peace.’

Zvi Strock, from illegal West Bank outpost of Esh Kodesh. 2012.
Daniel Bar-On

The State Prosecutor’s Office and the High Court of Justice have agreed to the request of a settler who took over Palestinian land to give him a full year to relocate his vineyard.

In his response to a petition to the High Court asking for his eviction, Zvi Strock, the son of a former rightist lawmaker and a resident of the unauthorized outpost of Esh Kodesh, said that the delay was necessary in order for the evacuation to be carried out “in a peaceful manner.” That hint of violence was sufficient for the court and the prosecution to agree to his request.

Strock was previously sentenced to two-and-a half years in prison for attacking and abusing a Palestinian youth and killing a baby goat.

The High Court accepted Strock’s request to postpone the removal of the vineyard he had planted on land in the village of Jalud, despite an order from the Israel Defense Forces Civil Administration to evacuate the land in December 2012. He originally took over the land in 2010.

An IDF appeals committee subsequently rejected his appeal in December 2014, ruling that he was a trespasser on land that did not belong to him. When he still failed to evacuate the 12 dunam (3 acre) plot, the owner of the land, Fauzi Ibrahim, petitioned the court with the assistance of the Rabbis for Human Rights organization.

Jaafar Ashtiyeh, AFP

In his response to the petition, Strock expressed his disappointment that the authorities did not recognize his claim to the land, and said that he had “presented to the Civil Administration and IDF his willingness to carry out a self-evacuation in a peaceful manner.” That needed to be postponed for at least a year, in order to move the trees and prepare the alternative land for planting and acclimatizing the trees, he said.

Rabbis for Human Rights attorneys Rachel Brodsky and Quamar Mishirqi Assad argued before the court that Strock could have moved the trees during the year that had passed since he received the final evacuation order. A month’s postponement would be reasonable, they said.

Attorney Roi Avichai Shweiki of the State Prosecutor’s office said at the hearing that the government’s support for the postponement does not stem from “professional” (i.e. agricultural) considerations, but “for the sake of peace. Our main emphasis is to reach it in agreement.”

High Court justices Neal Hendel and Noam Sohlberg agreed to the postponement of the evacuation, while justice Uzi Vogelman objected.

In response, Strock claimed, through his lawyer Boaz Arazi from the Michmash settlement, that the petition was a legal proceeding undertaken by political bodies to advance the agenda of defaming the settlers in Judea and Samaria.”

Strock claimed that the Palestinian petitioner did not prove his rights to the land, but nonetheless the petitioner and Rabbis for Human Rights were continuing to banish Strock from the plot he holds.

Attorney Mishirqi Assad said in response that the Palestinian farmer’s claim to the land met all the administrative requirements regarding the region in question. Strock and his attorney were grasping at straws by arguing that he was not the sole inheritor of the lands, they said.

“The Civil Administration confirmed that the Palestinian farmer worked the land, which is within the boundaries of the village of Jalud, before the settlers tresspassed on it; and therefore even for the reason of continuous farming (without having expelled anyone) he is supposed to have possession of the land according to the existing law in the West Bank.”

Judge Uri Kedar, of the military appeals committee that heard Strock’s appeal, confirmed that the area of the villages of Jalud, Turmus Ayya, Karyut and Mughayir, northeast of Ramallah and near the settlement of Shilo, “are filled with violent conflicts including documented harassments of Palestinian farmers.”

Six unauthorized outposts have been built in the area of these villages, east of the settlement of Shilo and outside the settlement’s boundaries, since the end of the 1990s. In order to prevent settler harassment of Palestinian farmers, the IDF placed limitations on Palestinian access to their lands, leading to large-scale expropriation of private and public Palestinian land by settlers.

The comination of IDF restrictions and settler harassment has left an area of over 10,000 dunams inaccessible to the residents of the Palestinian villages, said Dror Etkes, a researcher of the settlements.

Zafrir Rinat