HCJ 9669/10 Abed al Rahman Qassem v the Minister of Defense; HCJ6528/13 Abed al Rahman Ahmad Qassem v the Minister of Defense

In July 1979, a seizure order was issued in secret for land owned by the petitioner to permit the expansion of Beit El, while the Elon Moreh case was being heard by the High Court of Justice (HCJ). This precedential case resulted in the ruling that military seizure of lands for the purpose of establishing a settlement is prohibited. In December 2010, the petitioner, a Palestinian resident of Dura al-Qara, petitioned the HCJ with the assistance of Yesh Din to ask the Court enforce the December 2010 demolition orders issued for several structures whose construction had begun on his land.

These were two, five-story buildings constructed within the Beit El Council’s area of jurisdiction without permit, without a master plan and in violation of the stop work and demolition orders that were issued against them. Worse still, the construction was undertaken on private land owned by a Palestinian seized for temporary military purposes. The petition also asked to annul the military seizure order denying the landowner access to the land.

In January 2011, the High Court issued an interim order obligating the State to enforce the stop work orders that it had issued against the structures and to ensure the structures are not connected to any infrastructure. Three months later, the State announced it would carry out the demolition orders it issued against the structures within a year, unless they were destroyed before that by the party that maintains them.

However, before the demolition deadline, as part of another Yesh Din petition the High Court instructed to remove all construction in Givat HaUlpana, a neighborhood of Beit El. In order to ensure that this demolition in Givat HaUlpana would be conducted smoothly, the government signed an agreement with the Beit El’s rabbi, Rabbi Zalman Melamed, which included the promise to authorize of the Dreinoff complex. Minutes of the Beit El Council attests to the fact that retroactive authorization for the Dreinoff complex was part of a deal between the settlers and the government as part of demolishing the Givat HaUlpana neighborhood.

In September 2012, the State Attorney presented the HCJ with a revised position: the political echelon seeks to regulate (retroactively authorize) the illegal construction on the petitioner’s land, and is therefore reneging on its intention to enforce the demolition orders. The State also announced that 40 settlements were built on land seized for military purposes and that their construction continued after the Elon Moreh High Court ruling, such that there is no impediment to building in the area in this case either.

In October 2013, Yesh Din petitioned the HCJ again on behalf of the landowner, asking that the seizure order be annulled because the land was not being used for military purposes, and since a military seizure order is temporary by definition – and thus became invalid. The petition states: “As 15 years passed since the seizure order was issued and no military use was made of the petitioners’ land for security purposes and when the respondents revealed their intentions were to allocate the petitioners’ land for civilian purposes – the petitioners’ land can no longer be continued to be seized for reasons of urgent and imperative necessity.”

In September 2014, the High Court ruled in both petitions. The majority opinion was that the Dreinoff complex should be demolished by March 7, 2015. The justices decided not to address whether to annul the seizure order. “Under the circumstances, exhausting the planning process would violate the respondents’ obligation to the court and the implementation of its orders, without any guarantee that the planning process will end in the authorization of construction,” then Supreme Court Chief Justice Asher Grunis wrote in his ruling. “Since this case involves private land, and in light of the repeated commitments by the respondents to demolish the buildings, and since over three years after the first petition, a plan still hasn’t been put forward, I see no cause to accede to the [State’s] request to exhaust a planning process.”

In early 2015, the State began a planning procedure for using this land, without informing the landowner. In February 2015, the company that built the structures, M.D. Yehonathan, petitioned the HCJ demanding to annul the Court’s ruling, claiming that circumstances had changed fundamentally. The HCJ, however, rejected the claim.

Petition Status: The petition was accepted and the buildings were demolished