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Israel's chief justice lashes out over illegal West Bank building

Justices slam state over a request to retroactively authorize the construction of a sewage purification plant in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

By Chaim Levinson

27 June 2010

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch

Photo by: Daniel Baron

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justice Ayala Procaccia lashed out at officials over a request to authorize retroactively the construction of a sewage purification plant in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, which human rights activists have previously claimed was built mostly on privately owned Palestinian land.

The court ordered the state to explain within 90 days why it is refraining from enforcing the demolition orders for the waste purification facility.

"Your technique is not unique. A demolition order has been issued, nothing happened, and in the end – other solutions are being sought. This has become a common tactic," said Chief Justice Beinisch.

In May 2009, Palestinian residents of Ein Yabroud, with help from human rights group Yesh Din, had petitioned the High Court of Justice against the construction of a waste purification facility built illegally on their land.

The state argued during the hearing that retroactive approval of the plant is the only solution to Ofra's sewage problem, and that Palestinian residents of nearby villages would also benefit as they would in the future also be connected to the facility.

However, the justices were firm in their opposition to the state's argument. "How does this square with fundamental criteria for proper management?" asked Justice Procaccia. "First you build and then you authorize?"

The state representative argues that currently there is no solution, to which Justice Procaccia replied "There is no solution other than an illegal solution?"

The petitioners were represented by attorneys Michael Sfard, Shlomy Zachary and Avisar Lev of the Yesh Din legal team.

After the hearing, Sfard said, "This case is an example of criminal cooperation between the settlers and the state. The sate has added insult to injury by refusing to correct the situation after it was caught in the act. The settlement of Ofra is not above the law – and we will not rest until the stolen lands are returned to their rightful owners."