Court Orders NIS 100,000 Fine for Companies Building in W. Bank

Construction was being carried out on private Palestinian land despite High Court-ordered building freeze.

The High Court of Justice imposed a NIS 100,000 fine Thursday on construction companies that are continuing to build apartments in the Matityahu East neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Upper Modi'in, despite a temporary High Court injunction forbidding them to do so.

The decision is considered relatively severe, due both to the fact that the High Court rarely imposes punishment and to the large amount the companies are being instructed to pay.

The High Court ordered construction temporarily frozen roughly one year ago, due to the fact that the neighborhood was being built on private Palestinian land. Part of the construction was being conducted without any authorization whatsoever, while the rest was being carried out as part of an illegal master plan approved by the Upper Modi'in Council.

High Court Justice Ayala Procaccia ruled that the companies ignored the court's temporary injunction and began building a new road in the neighborhood.

Procaccia stressed that the construction of the road not only violates the injunction but also violates construction and planning laws, which require a valid construction plan and permit.

According to Procaccia, given the circumstances of the deliberations on this issue, the violation is of "especially severe proportions."

"The imposition of significant expenses to the benefit of the state treasury will send a message that will deter further violations of the law at the site," wrote Procaccia. "At the same time, we must allow the construction of an alternate access route to the residents of Haftziva B, in a manner that will provide for the needs of the resident population, which deserves the minimal conditions of welfare and convenience."

Justices Eliezer Rivlin and Miriam Naor participated in the ruling. The judges imposed a total fine of NIS 60,000 on the companies Green Mount and Green Park, and an additional fine of NIS 40,000 on Haftziva Construction and Development.

According to documents first exposed in Haaretz, the new neighborhood is being built on the private land of the Palestinian village Bil'in. The land was purchased by land dealers through dubious powers of attorney, then rezoned as state land and leased or sold to settlers' building companies.

The construction of the separation fence prompted the purchasers to implement their "rights" by hastily fixing facts on the ground.

"Peace Now," which petitioned the High Court on the issue, is demanding that all of the buildings that were built illegally be demolished. During an earlier deliberation on the petition, the justices had raised the possibility of ordering Haftzina and Green Park to return the money of those who purchased the apartments.

In the past year, Upper Modi'in became the largest settlement in the West Bank.