High Court insists on demolition of homes in Ulpana neighborhood by July 1

Coalition chairman backs call for legislation to circumvent ruling on buildings constructed on private Palestinian land at Beit El settlement

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 of Justice set a new deadline for the demolition of the unauthorized West Bank outpost Ulpana.

The court on Monday ruled that five permanent and five temporary structures in the outpost, home to about 30 Jewish families, must be dismantled by July 1.

The decision was welcomed on the left and criticized on the right. Coalition Chairman Dov Elkin (Likid) said the ruling left the government with no choice but to use the two-month leeway left by the court to pass legislation that would bypass the court’s ruling, and allow the buildings to survive.

Some residents of the buildings said they bought their homes there in good faith, unaware that the land on which they were built was privately Palestinian-owned. They said they had been given state grants to help cover their mortgages and that it was up to the government to help find a solution.

A May 1 deadline for Ulpana’s removal was postponed so that the court could hear an appeal by the government, which had asked for a delay.

The five buildings are part of a 14-building development project known as the Ulpana neighborhood. The land in question was purchased from a man who, the state concedes, was never the actual owner. The residents, some of whom bought their apartments 12 years ago, contend that the purchase was made in good faith and the matter is under investigation in the Jerusalem District Court. The Palestinian appellants, residents of the nearby village of Dura a-Kara, argued that the motion in district court is merely a means of buying time.

Attorney Osnat Mandel of the State Prosecutors’ Office said the state had requested a two-month extension in order to clarify issues regarding the sale of the land that remained “shrouded in fog,” since any ruling would have far-reaching implications.

Michael Sfard, an attorney with the civil rights group Yesh Din, which is representing the Palestinian landowners, slammed the settlers’ claim to ownership, calling it “an empty contention.” He noted that the purported seller was seven years old at the time that the land was registered and that the settlers’ claim was rejected outright by the Land Registry.

On Monday, the human rights group Yesh Din, which represents the Palestinian landowners in the case, said it welcomed the High Court’s decision.

“The moment the state submitted its unprecedented request, this case became a broader struggle than that of the petitioners alone, and became a struggle to preserve the basic norms of a regime based on the rule of law,” the group’s legal adviser, Michael Sfard said.

“The court delivered its verdict, and now the character and the values upon which Israeli society is founded are put to the test. I sincerely hope that this ruling will be implemented immediately and without any further delay,” he said.

MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) welcomed the court’s decision and expressed hope the government will respect it, Israel Radio reported.

Labor MKs also welcomed the decision, saying the court had ruled decisively to stop the government’s avoidance of the issue.

On the right wing, MKs were critical of the decision.

“The Israeli government has a responsibility to the public [residing] in Yehuda and Shomron,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said. “The government must take the legislative high road and prevent the expected evacuation.”

“Publicly elected officials, with the Likud at their head, are the ones who will decide on subjects of essential morals — not the court, which does not represent the will of the people but rather its own personal opinion,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud).

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