Israel's Top Court Orders Halt on All Construction at Illegal West Bank Outpost

Israel has nine months to legalize the Adei Ad outpost if it wishes to avoid carrying out existing demolition orders there

File photo of the site of a 2009 building demolition at the Adei Ad outpost
AP

The High Court of Justice has ordered a halt on all construction at the illegal Jewish outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank until the state carries out its plan to legalize the outpost.

The court ruled that, if the state wishes to avoid carrying out existing demolition orders against Adei Ad, it must legalize the outpost within the time frame it set for itself last March, when it said Adei Ad would be legalized “within a year and a half,” the court wrote. That leaves another nine months to complete the process.

Adei Ad was established in 1998 near the settlement of Shiloh. Today dozens of families live there. Most of the outpost is on state land, but it has no approved master plan and all of its 91 buildings were built without permits. In addition, 24 of the buildings were constructed on a portion of the outpost where the land’s status is unclear, although the state plans to try to declare that as state land as well. There would be legal obstacles to legalizing outpost construction if the land was found to belong to individual Palestinians.

“Nobody disputes that the outpost was built illegally,” former Supreme Court President Miriam Naor wrote in her ruling. Naor has retired, but she issued the ruling now as she wraps up cases that she heard as court president.

The petition against Adei Ad was filed by the mayors of several neighboring Palestinian villages, including Turmus Ayya, Al-Mughayir, Jalud and Qaryut, along with the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din. The petitioners demanded that the outpost be evacuated, since demolition orders had already been issued against it.

“The fact that construction is on state land doesn’t legitimize illegal construction,” Naor wrote, in a ruling in which current Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Justice Menachem Mazuz concurred. It does, however, justify giving the state time to legalize the outpost once it declares its intention to do so, she added.

“It is regrettable that this commitment [to legalize the outpost] was given only pursuant to the court’s order that the state set clear timetables,” she wrote, “but even though the state’s conduct in this case was far from satisfactory, I will not ignore the fact that the possibility of legalizing the construction on state land is being considered. ... Under these circumstances, I don’t think the state should be forced to carry out the demolition orders at this time.”

As for the other 24 buildings, on land of uncertain legal ownership, Naor noted that the state, after investigating, had concluded that the land could be declared state land, but hasn’t yet completed the process. Given this, the state should be allowed to postpone carrying out the demolition orders on those buildings “for a limited and brief time period.”

Nevertheless, she continued, suspending the demolition orders on all 91 buildings is subject to the condition that “there not be any new illegal construction within the outpost.” This, she stressed, applies to “any kind of illegal construction, including work to prepare the ground, on any type of land regardless of whether or not it has been declared state land.”

Naor rebuked Adei Ad residents for refusing to promise to voluntarily halt illegal construction until the outpost is legalized, and the state for refusing to either confirm or deny the petitioners’ claim that illegal buildings that had already been razed were rebuilt elsewhere at the outpost. “If the court receives information that construction is taking place,” she warned, “this is liable to constitute a change of circumstances that would redound to the respondents’ detriment and may affect the decision.”

The petition will remain pending with regard to the buildings on land whose status is unclear, and the state was ordered to inform the court on its progress in declaring the site state land, including the status of any objections to this declaration. “After receiving this report, the court will decide on its continued handling of the petition,” Naor wrote.

The petition will be dismissed with respect to buildings located on state land, but if the state fails to legalize Adei Ad within the timetable it set, the petitioners are free to file a new petition, she added.

The Yesh Din organization expressed disappointment with the decision, saying the court “refrained from providing a remedy to Palestinian farmers whose land was stolen and who are exposed to violence from Israeli citizens. The court, even if unintentionally, has thereby enabled the continued ideological criminality embodied by the outpost of Adei Ad.”