Likud MKs, Central Committee, Ulpana Hill Residents, in Pushback Against Court, AG, Barak (JEWISH PRESS) By: Yori Yanover 04/23/12)
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Aryeh Laskar, a middle aged Jewish man with a salt-and-pepper, long
beard, white shirt and black slacks, tells me he has lived in Ulpana
Hill for ten years with his wife and their seven children. We spoke
right before the start of a very large meeting of Likud’s Central
Committee, assembled outside the 14 buildings of Ulpana Hill in Bet
El, to show solidarity with the local residents.
“The town bought this land, it was legally purchased, we have all the
documents,” he says, “and now some other Arab showed up, proving this
land belongs to him. There appears to have been a dispute inside
their family over who actually owned the land. And they got help from
Peace Now, to come forward and say the land is theirs, so our homes
would be evacuated and demolished.”
But this is not a simple case of Buyer Beware, where a home owner is
penalized for his failure to perform due diligence. The state is
involved, as well. The state created the infrastructure for the
neighborhood and backed the mortgages.
The most recent apartment sale in the neighborhood, ground floor, 4
rooms and a yard, according to Laskar, went for NIS 800 thousand ($
212,500). The High Court has decreed that 14 apartment buildings with
roughly 50 apartments must be destroyed. At current market rates,
then, the cost to the state in defaulted mortgages alone, never mind
the cost of relocating about 250 people (more than 140 children live
in the buildings), would come to $10 million.
Both Aryeh and his wife are teachers, both employed in local towns.
Losing their home here would also mean two new unemployed Israelis
and a new welfare case.
The fact that Israel’s Supreme Court and the Attorney General are
prepared to endure these social and financial costs might suggest a
kind of zeal one normally attributes to religious fanatics. Rather
than pursuing a pragmatic, financial compensation to the claimant, as
is normal in similar civil cases, both the high court and the AG
appear hell bent on getting Justice.
I asked Ulpana residents Barbara Dorevitch and her daughter Judy
Simon, who has six children of her own, what their options were
should the bulldozers start arriving, come May 15.
“It can’t happen,” said Judy, emphatically. “If, God forbid, these
buildings were to be destroyed, it would encourage other Arabs to
come up and claim that land that was sold by other Arabs was actually
theirs. They just did that for six families in Hebron.”
As usual, everything that’s wrong with Israel’s political/judiciary
system comes to light in the most acute way in Judea and Samaria, as
became apparent from the speeches and the occasional heckles at
Sunday night’s Likud party assembly of solidarity with the residents
of Ulpana Hill in Bet El, in the Benjamin region.
Among the assembled in Bet El were a few individuals who came adorned
with orange-colored articles of clothing, reminders of Gush Katif.
And there was the quiet old man who was tirelessly displaying his
orange poster “We shall not forget – We shall not forgive,” with
photographs of synagogues that were incinerated upon what was once
euphemized as the “disengagement,” and nowadays has been dubbed
Although memorabilia of the 2005 shameful destruction of Gush Katif
by a Jewish and quite right wing government were kept to a minimum,
there might as well have been a giant banner of those burning
synagogues, homes, grass lawns, orchards and hothouses, dangling from
the pale, blue sky above the proceedings. Because at stake, and on
the minds of all the political dignitaries who came to show their
support, were not only the possibility of the destruction of a few
apartment buildings, but the encroaching new phase in anti-settlement
tactics: the creeping erosion, as Deputy Knesset Chairman, MK Danny
Danon coined it, of the entire settlement endeavor.
The past few years have seen a house by house, neighborhood by
neighborhood attack on the settlements, by small but well funded
organizations such as Peace Now and Yesh Din. They advance their
cause of targeting and bringing down the Jewish communities of Judea
and Samaria through a staggering onslaught of belated, often dubious
Typically, those suits are filed years after Jewish residents had
paid in full for their property, or were given the land and financial
support by the Ministry of Housing and government agencies. Suddenly,
an allegedly rightful, Palestinian owner of a plot of land or a house
appears, with a document from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah
which confirms his claim.
MK Zeev Elkin, who is Chairman of the subcommittee for Judea and
Samaria, put it bluntly when he spoke to the Likud Central Committee
assembly in Ulpana Hill, just as a graceful April sun was setting
over Tel Aviv in the distance.
“After many years in which people have been living in their homes,
comes a Palestinian with a note from the Palestinian Authority, and
says, It’s mine. Whoever sold you this land – it wasn’t theirs to
sell. No one checked the note, the court deliberation isn’t over yet,
but the AG already was rushing back to the Supreme Court saying, yes,
this is private land, it must be evacuated.”
“Imagine what would happen here, if the AG wins this fight,” Elkin
continued. “If a note from the PA suffices to declare a land
privately owned, tomorrow this will take place everywhere else in JS.
In Bet El, in Ma’ale Edumim, in Ariel – and it won’t stop in JS.
Because in the eyes of the PA, Jerusalem, too, and Be’er Sheva, Jaffa
and Haifa – they’ll give a note to cover them as well.”
“But even this is not the most crucial point of this debate,” Elkin
emphasized. “Do the people rule this country, or is it ruled by a few
clerks in the Ministry of the Judiciary. Can it be imagined that
millions of Israeli citizens go to the polls to change directions,
and they elect a nationalist government. Then the Knesset and the
government ministers express clearly their will, making it
inconceivable that this neighborhood be evacuated. And then the Prime
Minister directs his clerks in the Ministry of the Judiciary to
prevent the evacuation – and they still persist” in advancing the
same evacuation. “The question is, who governs this country? Who is
the premier and who is the adviser? Did the AG appoint himself Prime
Minister? Is this the situation?”
“We’ve gathered here,” Elkin concluded, “to answer very clearly – no.”
“Today the process is that they don’t go to a court, but instead they
begin with filing an appeal with the Supreme Court,” MK Danon told me.
According to Danon, as many as 9,000 Jewish homes are currently under
attack, and to date the Right has been unable to generate an emphatic
legal means of protecting future, gradual Gush Katif tragedies.
In civil court, most of those claims would have been thrown out
because they were filed too late, or the veracity of the documents
would be challenged. But Israel’s Supreme Court has been accepting
such lawsuits by the cartload recently, and employing a significantly
less rigorous examination of the facts of each case.
Add to that an AG’s office with deep cultural roots in Israel’s
secularist, largely anti-settlement Left, and you’ll end up with a
serious threat to continued Jewish life in Judea and Samaria.
This is how a Knesset with a significant right-wing, pro-settlement
majority, and a government coalition whose majority also supports the
settlements, and some even the outright annexation of Judea and
Samaria, ends up capitulating to a kind of permanent, left-wing, anti-
Those issues of a miniscule, left-wing, secularist elite ruling over
a vast majority of Jews who are traditional-to-religious, permeate in
many other aspects of Israel’s society, but they find their most
poignant expression in the debate over the future of the disputed
And of all the poignant issues, the tense relationship between the
courts and the legislative and the executive branches have been the
most turbulent. In a country without a clear constitution, much of
the judicial precedence is based more on a unilateral land grab on
the part of the High Court, than on the will of the voter. Israel
probably has the most activist Supreme Court, which is also anti-
democratic, in that it becomes directly involved in policy matters,
to the point where it simply erases government policy decisions to
enforce its own.
Like MK Danon, MK Miri Regev, Chairperson of the subcommittee for the
Outlying Areas, promised that this state of affairs would be taken
care of not after the next elections, but in the current Knesset
session, with the Settlements Regulation Act.
“We’ll present only two bills before the coming Knesset session,”
Regev said. “One – the enforcement of Israeli law on all the Jewish
settlements in Judea and Samaria, a bill which I will be presenting
May 14 at the ministers’ Committee; Two – the Regulation Act:
wherever we built, we do not destroy. Should a Palestinian come and
prove the land belongs to him – we will compensate him, as we would
everywhere else in Israel.”
“The Supreme Court only reaches those decisions” to evacuate areas
within long standing Jewish settlements, “when policy is unclear.
Wherever the policy is clear – the court doesn’t get involved.”
It is possible that this pushback will prove too much for Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and for the AG, and the Ulpana Hill will be
spared. But, short of passage of the dual legislation MK Regev
promised the crowd, the war on the settlements will continue full on.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since
age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba´Machane Nachal. Since
then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth,
JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on
the high seas), and the Grand Street News. Now he´s here. (© 2012
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