Ulpana neighborhood
Ulpana neighborhood Israel news photo: Flash 90

A High Court justice asked the government Sunday, “Where were you 10 years ago” if you wanted to save the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El?

The three-judge panel poured cold water during the first hearing Sunday on a government petition to delay by 60 days an order to destroy several homes that allegedly are built on Arab land.

The government explained that the issue of the buildings, like many in Judea and Samaria, is “complex and that the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Defense Minister (Ehud Barak) want to review government policy concerning the distinctions between the older neighborhoods of Beit El and the Ulpana community."

Justice Salim Jourban responded, “The government knew of the consequences a year ago, so what has changed? Where is your respect for the law? Where were you 10 years ago?”

There was no question raised about the land at the time of the construction. Previous Israeli governments built the infrastructure in the Ulpana neighborhood after they recognized that the land was sold legally.

One of the possible reasons was not stated – the Netanyahu coalition now is facing heavy pressure from members of the Likud party and other nationalists in the government to stop a wave of expulsions that the court has ordered in Beit El and several other areas in Judea and Samaria. Carrying out the order to demolish the homes in Beit El could severely damage support for the Likud in the elections that apparently will be held in September.

Lawyers for the petitioners, the left-wing Yesh Din organization, argued that the government has an obligation carry out the court order to expel the Jewish families from the homes. “I know the respondents and they will not carry out their obligations,”  they said. “The government is trying to buy time.”

“Ten years later someone comes along, waving a piece of paper and saying, ‘It’s mine,’” Judy Simon, coordinator of Beit El Tourism, told foreign journalists who visited the neighborhood last week.  

She added that the residents of Beit El have chosen not to reveal the name of the Arab man who sold the land  because of the Palestinian Authority law which states that any person who sells land to a Jew gets the death penalty.

“We could show [the proof of sale], but we won’t, because we value life,” she said. “That is the way it stands today: If a Palestinian sells land to a Jew, he’s got the death penalty. So we have protected the Palestinian who sold us the land because we value his life, perhaps more than his brothers do.”

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