State Too Busy to Tear Down El Bireh Stadium

The Civil Administration has been too busy in the past two weeks enforcing the construction freeze in the settlements in the West Bank to demolish the nearly-completed soccer stadium in the Palestinian town of El Bireh. The explanation came in the state's response to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice in November by the settlement of Psagot and the Regavim Movement, requesting the demolition of the stadium and three adjacent homes. Representatives of Psagot argue that the presence of thousands of Palestinians at the stadium, which is near the settlement, would constitute a threat to Psagot. They also say the stadium did not have the proper construction permits.

In its response the state said a demolition order had been issued but could not be implemented because the defense establishment is engaged in enforcing the freeze on construction in West Bank settlements and cannot spare the personnel for other purposes.

The state used the same defense in its response to a petition asking the state to explain why it had not carried out the demolition order issued against the illegal outpost of Netiv Ha'avot, located southwest of Bethlehem on Palestinian lands. This petition was submitted December 2 by a Palestinian resident via attorney Michael Sfard. The state said in its response that the political echelon was examining how the construction freeze would affect prior demolition orders.

The stadium lies within El Bireh's municipal area, but it is located in Area C - the area of the West Bank that is defined as under full Israeli control. The stadium is funded by Germany, France and the International Federation of Association Football. The Civil Administration and military authorities were aware of its construction and were even involved in giving an Israeli contractor access to the site as well as in allowing in construction materials.

The petitioners say Psagot residents could be endangered by stones thrown by fans from the stadium. Just prior to the filing of the petition the Civil Administration issued orders to stop construction on the stadium.