Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the return of the Dreinoff case is the way law enforcers abjure their duty.
We think we owe you an apology: about a month ago we informed you that the High Court of Justice has accepted our position regarding the Dreinoff Buildings. One could misconstrue that to mean that since Israel abides by the law, the decision was final and would finally be enforced. We are sorry for so misleading you — all we can say is that this wasn’t intentional or planned.
We regret to report that this was not the end of the case. Despite the fact that the High Court twice ruled that the Dreinoff Buildings were built on private Palestinian land seized by a military seizure order, and even though its last ruling made clear it was final and absolute, the government of Israel continued to do its best to avoid enforcing the law.
For that purpose, the Objections Subcommittee of the Civil Administration convened in mid-July, and after a speedy debate tabled the order to destroy the building in Beit El. This is the equivalent of a zoning plan — in an area seized by the military. The ruling paid lip service to the High Court ruling, saying that it, naturally, does not undermine it. Because, let’s face it, a planning committee annulling a decision of the land’s highest court might cause the mask that lets this country pretend it is a lawful one to slip. But the committee approved a plan, which means the approval of new buildings instead of the ones demolished. As this post is being written, the decision is supposed to be rubber-stamped by the Minister of Defense. [Update: it was.]
Perhaps the most infuriating article in the decision of the Objections Subcommittee is article 60, which refers to the objections of Attorney Shlomy Zachary of the Yesh Din legal team, who represents the land owner. Zachary noted that the criminals who illegally built the structures were never punished, and that approving the buildings is a form of rewarding criminality.
Article 60 replies: “In the case before us, indeed, the builders were not criminally charged for their actions; however, as was stated in High Court of Justice case 5528/12 […] the authorities are now acting to create an investigative unit for enforcing building and planning laws in the Judea and Samaria region, which doesn’t exist today. This issue impacts, as we see it, the very possibility of taking action against the criminals, who should not face a reckoning because the authorities did not act to create a relevant investigative body.”
In other words, since no one enforces planning and building laws in the West Bank, even those who are considered tp be criminals by the Objections Subcommittee should not be penalized for their crimes. Until a special law enforcement unit is created, the law will not be enforced.
Some explanation is in order. In fact, as demonstrated in our Mock Enforcement report (pg. 86 and onwards), the Israeli police is fully empowered to enforce the building laws — it simply doesn’t want to do so, and thus tries to throw this hot potato onto the lap of the Civil Administration, which doesn’t like the idea much either. Therefore both do nothing. The State Comptroller daintily admonished them in 2013 (Hebrew document); in May of that year, the State Attorney demanded that the defense minister create a body to enforce building laws. In May 2014 the Coordinator of Government Action in the Territories (COGAT), Brig. Yoav Mordechai, informed the Knesset’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that such a unit will soon be created.
Nothing has happened since, and as far as the Objections Subcommittee is concerned, the criminals can go on despoiling land. Yes, this theft may be deplorable, but it will not hinder them in any way from receiving building permits to create “facts on the ground.” Law enforcement? That’s so passé, and certainly not the concern of the Objections Subcommittee. Someone – don’t ask us who, there isn’t one – will handle this. Sometime. Maybe. Don’t count on it. Next!
The behavior of the Attorney General must be judged by his action. Weinstein may have sent a self-serving letter to the defense miniser two years ago, but his representatives supported the criminals time and again in the High Court, and are likely to do so soon. [Update: they did.]
It is reasonable to assume that once the felons appeal to the High Court for the third time, saying: “Here, we manufactured a building permit — what’s the point in demolishing the buildings? Isn’t it a shame?” The State Attorney representatives will support them. [Update: this is precisely what happened.]
Furthermore, Weinstein has a founder’s share in the concept that building offenses should not punished: last November, he closed the investigation against two Binyamin Council officials (Hebrew) who openly admitted to building the Ofra waste disposal facility on private Palestinian land. Weinstein’s argument was stunning: since no one had been previously prosecuted for similar offenses, the suspects may use the “abuse of process” defense. So Weinstein saved them the trouble, the time and the lawyers’ fees, and made the argument for them.
The paradoxical result of this decision may be that no one may ever be prosecuted for building offenses in West Bank: whomever has the unfortunate pleasure to become the first to be indicted will claim abuse of process and will rely on an august authority — the State Attorney himself. Building offenses may be still on the books, but Weinstein and the Objections Subcommittee did everything in their power to make them a dead letter.
On Sunday, July 26th 2015, we submitted an appeal to the High Court of Justice through Attorney Zachary, asking for an interim injunction, and interim order, and an order nisi against the guidance system. That day, the High Court issued an interim injunction ordering the government to explain why it insists on allowing what the court prohibited. So far, the court has refused to silently accept the fact that ideological criminality is rewarded by the government, time and again, since the law enforcers are in cahoots with the criminals. The court stood firm. We’ll keep you posted.
Update: As predicted (this post was written on July 22nd), Dreinoff did petition the High Court on July 28th, using the decision of the Objections SubCommittee as a pretext for the petition. The government supported the petition of the law-breakers. On July 29th the High Court issued its decision, dismissing the appeal with prejudice. That same day, all its options exhausted, the government demolished the buildings. To be continued.