Policeman on hill overlooking Khan al Akhmar
Policeman on hill overlooking Khan al AkhmarFlash 90

Justice Noam Solberg this evening rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request to delay the State's response to the Regavim petition in the Khan al-Ahmar case for six months, and criticized the State's conduct.

In a decision issued tonight, Judge Solberg writes, "The request to postpone the date of the hearing is embarrassing. The petition before us is the last link, at this time, in the chain of petitions filed regarding the evacuation of the Khan al-Ahmar compound."

Solberg described the legal saga that has been ongoing since 2009 across six different petitions filed by the Regavim movement, noting that even after the Supreme Court ruling, “at the end of two years - there is nothing new under the sun. Although the State's counsel has argued before us in the past about the urgency, and perhaps even desperation, in implementing its decisions, and although this Court has repeatedly allowed the State to implement its decisions, nothing has changed: What was is what will be, and what was done is what will be done.

"Now, close to the date set for the hearing of the petition filed in June 2019, in which it was strongly argued against the State's failure to fulfill its obligations, the State Attorney seeks to postpone the date of the hearing - a date set at the State's request. The adjournment of the hearing was requested this time until the end of the first quarter of 2021; we will not be able to accept that," Judge Solberg writes.

He said, "The State has the discretion to set priorities and formulate policy; precisely because of this, it must respect the things that come out of its mouth and allow people to rely on them, and not insert escape clauses."

Solberg rejected the request and stated that "under the circumstances, and due to time constraints" the hearing will take place in about two months.

The State is required to respond to the body of the petition by the beginning of November.

שופט בית המשפט העליון נועם סולברג
שופט בית המשפט העליון נועם סולברגצילום: מרים אלסטר, פלאש 90

The Regavim Movement responded to State petition, saying:"Two years after the Supreme Court ruling to evacuate Khan al Ahmar, Netanyahu asks for another six-month extension.

"The government’s representative has once again asked the Supreme Court of Justice to postpone the hearing on Regavim’s Khan al Ahmar petition. The newly-created government is completely preoccupied with the coronavirus.

"The government today requested yet another postponement of the hearing in which it is to explain why the Palestinian Authority’s flagship illegal outpost, Khan al Ahmar, has not yet been evacuated.

"A Supreme Court decision handed down in September 2018 gave the government the green light to evacuate the illegal structures built on state land within the municipal boundaries of the Jewish community of Kfar Adumim. The ruling, handed down in response to Regavim’s fifth petition against the illegal outpost, was the most recent in a string of petitions dating back to 2009, when Regavim first launched its legal battle to halt the Palestinian Authority’s land-grab in the E1 region. The Supreme Court rejected Regavim’s petition on the basis of the government’s declaration that it would be evacuating the illegal outpost 'in the near future.'

"In October 2018, only a short time before the court’s ruling, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced, in his opening remarks before a working-meeting of government, that 'Khan al Ahmar will be evacuated, either consensually or non-consensually. It will not take many weeks; it will take much less than that.'

"Months later, when the situation remained unchanged, Regavim once again petitioned the Supreme Court – for the sixth time, requesting an order that would require the government to explain its failure to enforce the law and to carry out the Supreme Court ruling within a stipulated timeframe.

"The government was to have responded to this petition on the eve of the second round of national elections in 2019, and argued that the transitional government then in power was a caretaker government and that the state’s response should be submitted only after a government was seated. The extended political crisis prompted the Supreme Court to allow an additional postponement.

"Last week, the government once again requested a short extension, asking that it be allowed to submit its response by today (Monday), but today, once again, the state’s representatives requested that the court postpone the hearing for another six months, pointing out that the current government was formed only four months ago."

In its deposition, signed by Israel’s National Security Council Director Meir Ben Shabbat, the State explained that the new government was sworn in during a period of “unprecedented complexity and sensitivity, without parallel in our national history.”

“The new government began its tenure against the backdrop of a national effort to contend with the spread of the corona virus and the far-reaching ramifications of this effort for government resources that have been devoted entirely to this important national objective. Keeping in mind the particular constellation of Israel’s security and political situation, the respondents (the government) require additional time to enable our elected political leadership to fully examine the subject of this petition.”

The Regavim Movement strongly objected to further postponement of the hearing. “This petition was submitted half a year ago, and in the time that has passed, no progress whatsoever has been made to conduct any such examination,” said Attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Cinnamon. “It’s become standard practice – every time the deadline for submitting a response arrives, the government submits a request for continuance based on any number of strange and convoluted excuses: transitional governments are unauthorized to respond to the petition, delays caused by the government’s preoccupation with the corona pandemic, and now – the government, sworn in over four months ago, has not yet had the opportunity to deal with the issue.”

“The Khan al Ahmar case long ago ceased to be an isolated case of a single illegal outpost. It has been an exemplar case of the way the state acts – or more precisely, how it fails to act – when faced with Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C,” adds Regavim’s Spokesman. “The government has violated its own commitment, reflected in the High Court of Justice’s ruling many long months ago. The time has come to put a stop to this inexcusable conduct. We call upon the High Court to issue a final judgement in this case, requiring the government to raze this illegal outpost immediately and to pay the court fees incurred by its interminable and inexcusable procrastination.”