The High Court on Monday ordered the eviction and demolition of the Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.
The court thus denied the State's motion to postpone the move by three months. The court also ordered the State to carry the Palestinian petitioners' legal expenses, as well as pay them NIS 15,000 (roughly $4,000) in damages.
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Ulpana has been the focus of a political storm: The neighborhood was built on contested Palestinian land and a petition for the residents' eviction was first filed by Yesh Din in 2008.
Ulpana (Photo: Lowshot)
The High Court eventually ruled that the area must be evacuated by May 1 – a move the government agreed to – but the Right's uproar as the date drew near, which some ministers warned could topple the government, had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrambling to find a solution.
The State's motion to reopen the case and review the decision also drew harsh criticism by the court:
"(The State) is basically seeking to change its policy post-verdict. This is unheard of," Justice Uzi Vogelman said Sunday.
"When the State says it intends on doing something and the prime minister commits to it, we don't consider a scenario in which it doesn't get done. There is mutual respect between the authorities," he said.
Chief Justice Asher Grunis echoed Judge Vogelman's position that the State's motion was without legal merit, saying that the State "has failed to prove why this specific case deserves an irregular review."
'Circumvent court ruling'
The ruling sparked harsh criticism in the Right, with some suggesting that the nearing elections will leave the government no choice but to try to veto the court's ruling.
"It's highly unlikely that the Likud will carry out a demolition in the middle of an election campaign," a senior party source told Ynet. "The party will have no choice but to promote circumventing legislation."
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom warned that "This Knesset cannot dissolve without resolving this issue. The Likud, which carries the banner of settlements cannot afford to leave behind a legacy of razed homes and evicted settlers."
A minister who is a member of the "Eight" – the prime minister's special security forum – disagreed: "We have no choice but to enforce the ruling. It cannot be ignored."
Other ministers also urged legislation that would essentially leave the ruling null and void: Minister Limor Livnat called such a move "The State's moral obligation."
Ulpana residents were stunned to learn of the ruling: "We feel utterly wronged. This neighborhood was built by the government and it is its duty to ensure it stays standing," Didi Dickstein, of Beit El, told Ynet.
'Gov't cannot flout rule of law'
Legal sources told Ynet that despite the obvious tensions between the Judiciary and the Government, "The chief justice has put an end to the (government's) disregard of the rule of law.
"The prime minister and defense minister cannot simply do whatever they want, they cannot flout the High Court's decisions and they cannot zigzag back and forth."
The court's displeasement with the government's actions, another legalist explained, was expressed with the damages order, "Which is highly unorthodox in such case and is indicative of the court's view of the motion as an insult to its position."
Chief Justice Grunis, he added, is adamant to show that High Court rulings cannot be disregarded… While he himself refrained from speaking during the hearing, the fact that Grunis personally wrote the ruling says a lot."
Attila Somfalvi and Itamar Fleishman contributed to this report
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