The Israeli High Court rejected on Monday the Israeli Government’s petition that the settlement outpost known as ‘Ulpana’, constructed on stolen Palestinian land, should be removed, confirming its previous decision of November 2011.The administration of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu filed a petition to the Israeli High Court last Friday to overturn a previous court decision ordering the removal of the Ulpana outpost, but, after hearing the case over the weekend, the court confirmed its previous decision to have the outpost removed.
In its petition, the Israeli government said that this should be a ‘test case’ due to ‘broader social implications for further construction’, adding that the state was ‘pursuing new policies, by which decisions regarding structures built on land whose ownership is contested, will be made on a case-by-case basis.’
The High Court set a date of July 1st for voluntary evacuation of the Ulpana outpost by its current residents, after which the Israeli military must remove them from the land.
The outpost of Ulpana is located adjacent to the Beit El settlement near Ramallah in the central West Bank.
Michael Sfard, the lawyer for the Palestinian landowners whose land was stolen by the Israeli settlers for construction of the outpost said that the current Israeli administration’s intervention in the court case was tantamount to contempt of court.
Sfard told reporters Monday, “The moment the State submitted its unprecedented request, this case became part of a broader struggle than that of the petitioners alone, and became a struggle to preserve the basic norms of a regime based on the rule of law. The Court delivered its verdict, and now the character and the values upon which Israeli society is founded are put to the test. I sincerely hope that this ruling will be implemented immediately and without any further delay.”
During the hearing on Sunday, Sfard told the Court in reference to the Israeli government’s unprecedented intervention in a legal proceeding: “The State should not have submitted this request; the Attorney General should have resigned, and sacrificed himself to protect the rule of law…The State is behaving like a gambler who raises the stakes each time.”
Because the case involved Palestinian landowners who had clear ownership of the land in question, the Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, which represented the Palestinians in the case, said that this was an important ruling which maintains the right of Palestinians to own land. The group stated, “If such a decision [to maintain the outpost] were made by the State, it would amount to a declaration that the Palestinians who have lived under Israeli rule for more than four decades do not have the right to private property. Such a violation of the Court order would encourage further violations of the law and undermine Israel’s moral code.”
There are, however, many provisions in Israeli law that allow for the confiscation of Palestinian land, including the ‘Absentee Property Law’, which allows the Israeli government to seize the property of any Palestinian landowner who does not live on the property they own.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Israeli government, however, makes distinctions between ‘legal’ settlements (which are sanctioned by the Israeli government) and ‘illegal’ settlements (which are not sanctioned by the Israeli government). However, Israeli law allows ‘illegal’ settlements to be made legal retroactively if they can maintain a presence of a certain population of people over a period of years, after which they can petition the government to establish roads, electricity and water to the outpost, thereby making it ‘legal’ under Israeli law.