HCJ 4475/09 Nadmi Hassan Mohammad Salman V the Minister of Defense

In 2009, the council heads of the Palestinian villages Deir Isstiya and Thulth petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) with Yesh Din’s help demanding illegal construction be stopped in the illegal outpost of El Matan. This outpost, which has since become an authorized settlement (under Israeli law), was established in 2001, adjacent to the settlement of Ma’ale Shomron. The petition also requested that an investigation be opened and steps taken to prosecute individuals responsible for the illegal construction; to prevent approval of the structure before it is put in use; and taking the necessary steps to prevent it from being connected to the electricity and water grids.

The petition noted that this structure was built rapidly on state lands and was nearly completed after three months. It also claimed that as in many other cases of illegal construction by Israelis on Palestinian land, Israeli law enforcement authorities show total disregard for their fundamental obligation to prevent contempt of the law and damage to private and public property. As a result of the petition, the HCJ issued an interim order prohibiting any further construction.

The State response claimed that the petition should be dismissed since its agencies are in fact conducting enforcement and supervision procedures for the structure in question, and stressed the broad discretion granted to law enforcement authorities regarding priorities for enforcing planning and construction laws. The State also noted that the structure was built inside an area defined as a nature reserve designated for agricultural development, and as such construction was prohibited.

In June 2010, after Yesh Din filed a complaint with the State Attorney because construction was continued despite the interim order issued by the Court, the State announced that it decided to issue a final stop work order for the said structure. The State Attorney then decided to seal off the structure, so it could not be used. The HCJ accepted the State’s position that demolition should be avoided because the structure was planned as a synagogue.

Based on this ruling, the Samaria Settlers’ Committee petitioned the HCJ to prevent sealing of the synagogue; however, the HCJ rejected this petition. “It is the executive’s obligation to enforce the orders so they do not become irrelevant,” Justice Ayala Procaccia wrote in the August 2010 ruling. She notes that the fact that the structure is a synagogue does not grant it immunity. “When a structure is illegally built, and designated to serve as a house of prayer, it does not guarantee it a status that is above the law.”

In 2012, the Israeli government retroactively authorized the outpost as a village for artists and it became an official settlement.

Petition Status: The petition was partially accepted, and the structure was sealed