Court will hear state motion to delay Ulpana evacuation

Announcement comes as jurists release petition criticizing High Court’s decision to stay demolition of contested neighborhood

The Ulpana outpost, adjacent to the Beit El settlement (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
The Ulpana outpost, adjacent to the Beit El settlement (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

The High Court will discuss the government’s request to postpone by 90 days the eviction of the controversial Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El next week, Supreme Court president Asher Grunis ruled Tuesday. The buildings in Givat Ulpana were scheduled for destruction on May 1.

Grunis ruled in favor of hearing the government’s motion next week, despite a letter published Tuesday by several prominent jurists criticizing the government’s Friday request for an extension on the High Court order.

According to the lawyers, the fact that the High Court is being asked to reopen a closed case and delay the demolition for 90 days in accordance with the government’s request is tantamount to “destruction of the rule of law.”

The jurists wrote in their letter: “Last week the government of Israel informed the Supreme Court that it does not intend to carry out its obligations, which are anchored in a final judgment, to evacuate…  illegal construction and return the land to its legal owners. The government also sought to reopen the case and cancel the verdict a year after it was decided. These are serious and dangerous steps, unprecedented, and representing the destruction of the rule of law.”

The petition was signed by prominent jurists including former attorney general Michael Ben Yair, former deputy attorney Judith Karp, retired Judge Saviona Rotlevy, attorney Talia Sasson, and Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer.

In their letter, the jurists offer harsh criticism of the court and the government, stating that the decision to stay the demolition was dangerous and unprecedented, and would erode the court’s standing.

They argue that the court’s decision to leave the outpost standing until it considers whether to accept the government’s request is a de facto acceptance of the state’s petition, and that the justices should not delay Givat Ulpana’s razing, which was scheduled for Tuesday.

A Supreme Court ruling on Sunday, giving the government a further 60-day period to tackle a dispute over two other Beit El buildings, may signal how the court will act over the Ulpana structures, according to the lawyer representing the Palestinian landowners in the case.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday told the state prosecutor to petition the court to extend the Ulpana demolition order by 90 days in order to be able to review legal options to save the settlement’s 30 homes slated for destruction.

The move has been criticized by left-wing politicians and civil rights organizations, who said it showed the government’s contempt for the court, while right-wingers and settler representatives welcomed the move and said they were confident the court would rule in their favor.

Haaretz quoted Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, as saying the move reneges on a promise to the “High Court in a crude and unprecedented manner and places the settlers in the territories above the law.”

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