Givat Assaf
Givat Assaf Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Attorney Betzalel Smutrich of the Regavim movement explained to Arutz Sheva what the recent rejections by the High Court of most of the petitions by radical leftist Peace Now activists to destroy six small communities in Judea and Samaria mean.

According to the attorney, the ruling was important in terms of legal precedent, as he noted "in the end the High Court adopted the state's position as was stated all throughout relating to all of the communities. That's an important lesson. At the end of the day, the one who is guilty for bad decisions is the State Attorney, and that's where we need to focus and fight."

In fact, a recent court ruling determined that State Attorney Shai Nitzan has shown a "scandalous" bias against activists on the political right, a fact that would seem to support Smutrich's assertions.

The attorney elaborated on what the state position adopted by the High Court consists of, explaining that buildings constructed on land claimed to be privately owned by Palestinian Arabs needs to be destroyed, and those not on land defined as private land will have their status finalized by the state.

Radical leftist NGO Peace Now's push to demolish the six communities was based on a "delineation order" assigned against all six, which Smutrich defined as a "draconian order that was legislated only against Jews."

Smutrich noted that in all six of the communities there are parts that are on private land and parts on survey land being investigated by the state.

"From the approach presented by the state according to which things built on private land is destroyed, the High Court decided to destroy three structures on a part of Givat Assaf, while three other parts that were purchased will remain," he noted.

Givat Assaf has been a point of tension, with residents arguing that there are no Arab land claims on the town and that the government in September reversed its position to organize the status of the community, in what they charged is a betrayal that threatens the future of the town.

According to Smutrich, the decision to destroy three structures instead of the entire town as Peace Now pushed for is a good sign, although the demolition is still problematic given that the residents had agreed to move them and they are currently inhabited by families.

Land ownership fights - not in the High Court

The attorney added that the leftist organization's claims against the communities' obtaining of the land was shot down by the High Court, which said the Arab residents claiming ownership must prove that ownership in civilian courts and not in the High Court, which does not deal with such matters.

The High Court ruled that Givat Haroeh, a community adjacent to Shilo in Samaria, is not to be demolished either but that a road currently paved on privately claimed land needs to be replaced with an alternate path within a year, after the state said a plan for an alternate path already exists. Aside from the road and the three structures in Givat Assaf, the court ruled against all other petitions for destruction.

Regarding the other communities, "the High Court criticized the fact that it takes the state time to organize their status. That's a criticism that I think can be joined to," said Smutrich. 

He added that the High Court's declaration that it will not get involved in issues not relating to private land is based on precedents created by Regavim in petitions against illegal Arab construction.

Speaking about the state's position in favor of demolishing all communities built on private land, Smutrich called the policy scandalous, noting that in many cases there are legal solutions to such communities that don't include demolition. He noted that in many cases the building was in good faith given the complicated legal realities in the region, and the fact that the local land registry is kept confidential.