Law Would Require Proof of Land Ownership Before Demolitions
The Ministerial Law Committee is set to consider a law that could put an end to arbitrary demolition of homes in new communities (“outposts”), preventing raids by soldiers and police to force families from their homes in places like Ramat Gilad, as occurred earlier this month. The law would require that a building or caravan placed on land be removed only if a court determined that the land on which the structure was located belonged to someone else.
Currently, homes in such communities in Judea and Samaria can be demolished by a court order, based only on a claim by an Arab that the land belongs to him. Regardless of whether or not the Arab claimant brings proof, the courts generally order the demolition of structures, although ownership of the land does not necessarily automatically fall to the Arab.
The decision on whether the claim is valid is usually made by a Civil Administration official, who does not have any legal standing on land ownership matters at all. The High Court, which adjudicates such cases, does not examine the validity of the claim in advance, but accepts the official's position as the deciding one.
After issuing the demolition orders, the court decides the merits of the claimant's case. Often, such claims are found to be false. The new law would require that the Arab claimant prove ownership or another relationship to the land before the demolition orders become valid. This was the case in a recent demolition order issued for Migron; security forces fulfilled the demolition order, but an examination of the case in court later showed that the land in question did not actually belong to the claimant. A pending demolition order for the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El is based on the claim by an Arab that the land belongs to him, even though the land was purchased legally from a different Arab.
The law is being proposed by MKs Ya'akov Katz (National Union), Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Yariv Levin (Likud). Speaking for the four, MK Katz (Ketzaleh(, chairman of the National Union, said that the law “will prevent further abuses of the law, such as have occurred already. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to be opposed to the law, even if they believe that structures built on land that really does belong to someone else should be torn down,” since it requires a court hearing on the validity of claims before demolitions take place.
In a statement Saturday night, Yesha Council head Danny Dayan urged the Committee to approve the law for the next step, Knesset legislation. Dayan said that the law did not remove or deny the rights of property owners, and was not designed to legitimize illegally built communities. “All it does is require a court to examine evidence of land ownership before issuing demolition orders,” Dayan said.