Top Supreme Court Justice Blasts State's System of Legitimizing West Bank Outposts

Supreme Court reviews claims that West Bank settlers purchased portions of plots intended for legitimization, after Israeli government asks for further delay for evacuation and demolition of Givat Assaf outpost.

Israel's Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor on Sunday lambasted the government over its method of legitimizing illegal West Bank outposts slated for demolition.

Naor took particular issue with the state practice that allows settlers to purchase just small portions of the land in the areas intended for legitimization.

"What's it worth to obtain a small plot of land?" Naor asked the state representative in a special session of the High Court of Justice, which centered on the posptponed evacuation of the Givat Assaf outpost.

The matter under deliberation began in 2004, when the Israel Defense Forces' GOC Central Command signed an order authorizing the immediate evacuation of six West Bank outposts: Givat Assaf, Givat Haroeh, Mitzpe Itzhar, Ma'aleh Rehavam, Mitzpe Lahish and Ramat Gilad. When the outposts were not evacuated according to order, the Peace Now movement petitioned the High Court of Justice in 2007 demanding its enforcement.

The government announced in March 2011 that it would dismantle Givat Assaf, an outpost built on private land, by the end of the year. The others, located on government land, would be legitimized. The state requested to postpone the evacuation and demolition of Givat Assaf until July 1, 2012. In June 2012, it requested an additional delay of seven months.

During the deliberations on Sunday, Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, Deputy President Naor, and Justice Neal Hendel harshly criticized the state over its actions.

Justice Grunis criticized the way in which the state has tried to defer the matter. “It’s difficult to know where we stand,” said Grunis, to which Naor added:

“That is how you ask for a postponement? They add it to some subsection?” “I read what you wrote, and I understood nothing,” said Naor, referring to the government’s request for to postpone the demolition, in light of new developments.

The state’s representative at the hearing, attorney Uri Keidar, defended the government's position: “We’ve already issued a conditional order, the court statement says nothing.

“Petitions to approve sales were submitted [deals in which settlers purchased small portions of plots]," he added. "Following the purchases, we are trying to find a solution. It takes time.”

According to Keidar, the ownership of every plot of land there is in question – as each one is owned by more than one party.

Keidar stated that the ownership issues must be cleared up, and a plan must be agreed upon. Settlers in Migron also claimed to have purchased some of the land, and on that basis requested that their structures be permitted to stay. However, the High Court of Justice turned down those requests.

During the hearing on Sunday, Grunis asked Keidar exactly how many plots in the settlement were in question. Keidar began to mumble, and refused to answer the question directly. Grunis became weary of the discussion and brought the proceedings to a close. Currently, the court is expected to request that the government submit an updated report regarding the purchases, as well as a response to the claims that illegal construction is continuing.