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Illegal Arab Outposts Targeted in High Court Appeal

Learning a lesson from rival Peace Now, a nationalist organization petitions the High Court against illegal Arab outposts in Judea and Samaria.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 6/29/2009, 6:27 PM

Israel news photo courtesy of Regavim

A pro-Land of Israel group has filed a motion asking the High Court of Justice to order a halt to construction of illegal Arab outposts in Judea and Samaria, as it has done in the case of illegal Jewish building. The petitioners hope that the court will be as strict with regard to Arab outposts as it was when groups like Peace Now and Yesh Din filed motions against Jewish construction.

The petitioner is an organization named Regavim, which is dedicated to safeguarding of Jewish national lands. It was filed Monday against the Minister of Defense and the Head of Central Command, and demanded that they issue demolition orders against illegal structures within the illegal outposts near the Arab villages of As-Sawiya and Yatma, next to the Jewish community Rechelim in Shomron (Samaria). Rechelim is located in territory that is labeled as “Area C”, under full Israel security and administrative control.


Illegal Arab outposts near Rechelim (Israel news photo courtesy of Regavim)

The petitioners ask the court to issue an order requiring the Head of Central Command to declare the area where the illegal building is being carried out as a closed military zone and to instruct the Civil Administration to immediately issue work-stoppage orders and demolition orders against three structures that are in advanced stages of construction and which have not yet been populated.

In addition, they ask that the police initiate criminal proceedings against the builders. The High Court is requested to prevent the connection of the structures to the electricity grid and to water and sewage pipes, and to disconnect them if they have already been hooked up.

'Under the noses of the authorities'
Regavim is an organization dedicated to preventing unwanted elements from taking over national lands. It monitors the administrative agencies entrusted with safeguarding national lands to make sure that they operate properly.

The petitioners claim that “entire outposts are being built in broad daylight and in contravention of the law, under the very noses of the law enforcement authorities.” The outposts, they say, “are built without the requisite authorization and include spacious mansions that would not look out of place in the most lavish neighborhoods in Israel and the world.”

Three spacious homes
The constructors in the outposts “make a mockery of the legal authorities and invest large sums of money in building luxurious homes illegally and without the required permits,“ the motion states.

The motion includes documentation of three spacious homes that are in advanced construction, which were photographed on June 25th.

Despite the fact that Regavim informed the Defense Ministry and the Civilian Administration of the construction in early 2008, no steps have been taken against the builders. There are no “supervision files” and no work stoppage or demolition orders.

In a letter from the Civilian Administration received on February 17, 2008, the Administration claimed that work-stoppage and demolition orders were already issued and that further steps would be taken “in accordance with procedures and priorities as regards illegal construction” Regavim claims, however, that no enforcement steps have been taken in the 18 months that have passed since.

IDF report acknowledges problem
Attorney Amir Fisher, who represents Regavim, accused the authorities of adopting “a clear and declared policy of non-enforcement of planning and construction laws” and that builders of the outposts are well-aware of this fact. In this situation, he said, his clients had no recourse but to petition the High Court.

He quoted a 2008 report by the IDF Civilian Administration’s Central Supervision Unit which said that “2008 was characterized by a near-total freeze of enforcement action with regard to the illegal Palestinian construction.” The report acknowledged that “a freeze of demolitions and other enforcement activities with regard to infrastructures sends a negative message to the populace and makes it possible to create facts on the ground that we will have difficulty facing.”