On Monday morning, the High Court of Justice heard arguments in yet another round of Regavim’s petition demanding the implementation of demolition orders issued by the state in 2009 to evacuate an illegal outpost on Route 1, in an area under full Israeli jurisdiction.
You read it right: this case has been schlepping along for 14 years.
At the hearing, the state’s representative claimed that the state has no objection to the implementation of the orders, but demands that it be given full discretion as to the timing and manner in which they are to be implemented, due to the political and security considerations involved. The head of the National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, appeared at the hearing in person and the state requested that its arguments be presented behind closed doors.
The justices asked the state’s representative how much longer it would take to enforce the law in this case, and, come to think of it, what guarantees the state can give that the orders will indeed be carried out as promised lo so many years ago. The presiding judge, Justice Noam Solberg, asked whether, in the state’s opinion, Khan al Ahmar may not be a justiciable matter.
Justice Alex Stein went even further, questioning how the state expects the court to reject a petition demanding the execution of demolition orders when the state is unwilling to give any date for eviction.
The residents of Khan Al Ahmar expressed their opposition to the presentation of the state’s arguments behind closed doors.
The Regavim Movement agreed to a closed-door hearing but requested that the court address the public’s right to know whether the factors hindering the implementation of the law stem from political, diplomatic, or actual security matters. “If the state is unwilling to uphold the law due to the involvement of foreign countries, the Israeli public has a right to know,” Regavim’s lawyers contended.
At the end of the closed-door hearing, the justices announced that a verdict or decision would be sent to the parties.
Monday’s hearing was another stage in the sixth petition against the Palestinian Authority’s outpost known as Khan al-Ahmar, located in the Adumim Region adjacent to Route 1, the main traffic artery connecting Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and Israel’s eastern border. All the previous petitions have been withdrawn in response to the state’s stated commitment to enforce the law and evacuate the complex.
Nearly 5 years ago, the State of Israel prepared a legal, fully developed neighborhood just outside Abu Dis for the relocation of the Bedouin Jahalin squatters on state land. The Israeli government had indicated that the residents of the illegal encampment were prepared to reach an agreement with the state, and relocation was imminent – but it was called off at the last minute. Since then, the illegal compound has continued to grow, and no enforcement has been carried out.
Attorney Avi Segal, representing Regavim in this petition, explained: “Although in principle it is true that the court should not interfere in political issues, in the event that the state refuses to enforce the law for 15 years and under the auspices of this situation the Palestinian Authority and the residents of the compound continue to take over territory, there is no alternative: the High Court of Justice must put an end to this saga and allocate a reasonable timetable for the state to enforce the law.”