Israel's High Court Postpones Date for Removal of Ulpana Homes

High Court of Justice grants state's request that the Beit El houses, which were built on privately owned Palestinian land, will be dismantled by mid-November.

The High Court of Justice on Sunday granted the state's request to postpone the demolition of five houses built on privately owned Palestinian land in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El settlement in the West Bank.

Last May, the High Court ruled that the houses will be razed by July 1. On Sunday, the justices decided that the demolition will be postponed until mid-November.

Last week, the state evacuated the residents of the houses to a nearby temporary base and requested an extension on the date of demolition, in order to dismantle the homes and move them elsewhere. Michael Sfard, the landowners' attorney, objected to the extension.

Supreme Court President Justice Asher Grunis ruled that, under the assumption that the residents and their property were indeed evacuated from the houses, and taking into consideration the timetable given for dismantling and removing the buildings, he and the other two justices, Salim Joubran and Uzi Vogelman saw no reason to reject the request.

The state's request to postpone the demolition reveals that it is still unclear whether the structures can actually be re-assembled. In its request, the state said that the process of dismantling the buildings, which includes planning and execution, is expected to begin immediately after the evacuation in July, and end in mid-November.

The request was submitted along with affidavits by the Cabinet Secretary, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and Bezalel Treiber, deputy director of the Defense Ministry, who is in charge of the project.

"Taking into account the public clamor around the issue, and its sensitivity, the government believes it should decrease the chances for a potential confrontation with the residents," the request read.

"As part of this approach, the government believes the right course of action is to remove the permanent structures, and relocate them. Let us underline this: the removal of the buildings will not be carried out by demolitions on the site."

The state did not add an engineer's opinion, but wrote that, "The department of logistics and property has submitted a detailed engineering plan. As part of the first stage, the planning of the dismantling, the important part is ready, but there is a need for a further month and a half to complete the planning, which can only be carried out once the buildings are evacuated. In the second and third stages, the dismantling will be carried out as follows: initial dismantling of roofs, doors and windows, and after that the building will be dismantled in two phases – the third floor and the building rooftop, followed by the first and second floors, with the building's outer walls being divided to 18 parts. In the fourth stage the buildings will be rebuilt, while considering reusing parts that have been sawed off."

The petitioners – landowners represented by "Yesh Din," a human rights group – wrote the HCJ that "with great sorrow the petitioners have no choice but to determine that the submitting of the request, the timing and manner, four days before the court ruled that the demolition must be carried out (days including a Friday and Saturday), while presenting the court with a fait accomplis, the [government] has again demonstrated it's contempt of the court in this case."

Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood.
Olivier Fitoussi