The Attorney General’s Office has reprimanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office for routinely intervening in law enforcement’s efforts to demolish illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank.
In an October letter uncovered Thursday by the Haaretz daily, Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz wrote to PMO director Ronen Peretz, chiding the political echelon over the “very alarming collection of cases that raises concerns about the development of a very problematic trend of undermining the rule of law.”
The cases cited by Kaminitz included demolition orders in the Sde Ephraim outpost near Modiin Illit, Givat Assaf near Beit El and Havat Negohot in the southern West Bank. The deputy attorney general said a frequent tactic used by the PMO to prevent razings was to direct the Civil Administration — the Defense Ministry body responsible for enforcing laws against illegal construction in the West Bank — to delay the orders. Portable structures cannot be removed if they’ve been allowed to remain for more than 60 days, according to military law in the West Bank.
In one particularly egregious case last September, the Civil Administration planned to evacuate the Mitzpe Yehuda shepherding outpost south of the Kedar settlement where authorities found a tent, water tank, truck refrigerator and mattresses. Upon receiving the order, Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Shlomo Ne’eman sent an urgent letter to Avi Roeh, the former head of the Yesha Council umbrella organization of settlements who currently serves as the Defense Ministry adviser on settlement affairs, urging him to intervene on the settlers’ behalf.
He argued that the outpost lies within the jurisdiction of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and that it’s in the process of being legalized. Only several weeks after, however, did the municipality submit a request to begin legalizing Mitzpe Yehuda. In the meantime, Roeh ordered the administration to freeze the demolition plans.
He also instructed the Civil Administration to take down a Palestinian tent that had been erected illegally nearby, as requested by Ne’eman.
Palestinians from the neighboring village of as-Sawahira ash-Sharqiya have petitioned the High Court to demolish Mitzpe Yehuda, which they claim was built on their land, but the Civil Administration’s demolition order has since been scrapped.