Israel's New Attorney General Approves Home Demolitions in First Official Decision

Avichai Mandelblit, previously cautious about policy, gives green light to demolish houses belonging to terrorists who murdered Jews.

Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer
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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.
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.Credit: AFP
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s first move on the job has been approving the demolition of terrorists’ houses.

Over the past two days, the new attorney general held meetings to examine the evidentiary and legal basis for razing the homes of terrorists who have taken part in the current wave of attacks. Before Mandelblit took office, an associate of his told Haaretz that Mandelblit thinks the home demolition policy is at odds with international law but since it is anchored in the country’s laws (section 119 of the emergency defense regulations), it could be used moderately, and only during a terror wave.

A decade ago, he stated before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee that it is “very hard to assess the effectiveness of the demolitions. There are concrete examples in which it has been shown to be effective, but there also appears to be evidence that demolition for deterrence purposes has also created greater hatred and higher motivation [to commit attacks].”

Avichai Mandelblit speaking at the ceremony in Jerusalem to replace Yehuda Weinstein as attorney general, February 1, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Yesterday, after consulting with the State Prosecutor and other officials, the attorney general decided that there was no legal obstacle to carrying out most of the demolitions now under consideration by the security forces, contingent on a hearing. Among the demolitions that were approved were the homes of the cell members who murdered Eitan and Na’ama Henkin, the homes of the terrorists behind the attack in which Eran Ben-Ari and Rabbi Reuven Birmacher were murdered, and the home of the terrorists who killed Gennady Kaufman.

In certain cases, the houses were only to be sealed, and in two cases no demolition was approved. Mandelblit did not give approval for demolition of the home of the terrorist responsible for the shooting attack in which Rabbi Yaakov Litman and his son Netanel were killed near Otniel last November.

The attorney general cited the fact that the attacker’s family turned him into the security services, and said razing their home would be disproportionate.
Announcements of the planned demolitions will be issued in the coming days, and those due to be affected will be able to appeal the order before a final decision is made. If that appeal fails, they will still be able to appeal to the High Court.

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