Illegal Arab structure near Rachelim
Illegal Arab structure near RachelimIsrael news photo: courtesy of Regavim

High Court Justices Edna Arbel, Elyakin Rubenstein, and Hanan Meltzer have ordered the state to set a timetable for the destruction of illegal Arab-built structures in Samaria. Palestinian Authority Arabs have built dozens of illegal structures on Israeli-owned land near the town of Rachelim.

The state must enforce the demolition orders “as part of its fundamental obligation to uphold and enforce the law,” the judges ruled.

The decision relied on a verdict handed down by Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch in a suit against Jewish homes in Samaria.  In that suit, the Peace Now organization had filed a suit to the Supreme Court demanding that the state demolish homes in the towns of Yovel and Haresha. The homes had been ruled to be illegal, but the state had declined to enforce demolition orders.

Beinisch ruled in favor of Peace Now, and said the state is obligated to provide the court with a timetable for the destruction of illegally built homes.

State representatives told the court that files had been opened regarding a total of 84 illegal structures in the two Arab villages Kfar Yatma and A-Sawiya. The buildings in question were built in “Area C,” territory left under full Israeli control in agreements with the Palestinian Authority.

While several dozen structures have been found to be illegal, only 13 illegal Arab structures near Rachelim have been demolished, over the course of more than 13 years.

The state argued that the government is responsible for determining priorities in law enforcement, and that the High Court should leave the matter to the state's discretion.

End to Selective Enforcement?

The Regevim organization, which had filed suit against the delay in destroying illegal Arab homes, expressed satisfaction with the verdict. “We're encouraged by the Supreme Court's readiness to finally enforce the law in Judea and Samaria,” representatives of the group said.

Regevim activists said they would file more suits over illegal Arab construction on Jewish-owned land in Judea and Samaria. “We hope this will be the end of selective law enforcement in Judea and Samaria,” they added. Jewish activists have long accused the state of acting quickly to destroy unauthorized Jewish homes, while allowing illegal Arab construction to continue unimpeded.