(April 30, 2019 / JNS) Following a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court by the NGO Regavim, the Israeli government declared this month that it will evacuate squatters from an illegal agricultural compound near Rumat al-Heib in the Galilee in the coming months and enforce standing demolition orders.
In 2012, the family of Salakh ’Oudah, of the notorious Al Bashir clan, seized land registered to the Israel Land Authority near Rumat al-Heib and set up a farming compound, complete with barns and other agricultural and industrial structures. Beginning in 2012, Regavim began submitting a stream of warnings, appeals and requests to the ILA, which did not respond.
As the years passed the compound continued to grow and expand, until finally, the NGO took the matter to the High Court of Justice.
In a hearing on April 17, 2018, the government declared that demolition orders would be carried out by the Government Collection and Enforcement Authority in August 2019.
From the government’s response to the court, it is clear that the ILA took action only as a result of Regavim’s petition. Regavim, for its part, agreed to withdraw the petition in light of the government’s stated commitment to enforce the law.
In the ruling, handed down by justices Anat Baron, George Karra and Alex Stein, the court reprimanded the ILA for failing to fulfill its obligations under the Freedom of Information Law. “It goes without saying,” the justices said, “that the respondent [the ILA] must reply to requests submitted by the appellant as a matter of minimum standards of good governance.”
Chezi Eyal, Regavim’s northern region field coordinator, said “this is a classic case of official negligence enabling the creeping illegal takeover of state land. We applaud the outcome of this petition, but that we had to take the matter all the way to the High Court of Justice to compel the authorities to carry out their duties is regrettable. This petition further reinforces the state authorities’ responsibility to give timely and complete responses to Freedom of Information requests, as required by law.”