Court: State Must Enforce Demolition Orders Equitably

YERUSHALAYIM -
General view of Ariel, in the Shomron. (Flash90)

The High Court slammed the state for failing to enforce the law against certain illegal structures, such as in the case of a restaurant operating without a license, in an illegal structure, whose owners built their own exit from a major highway — all without the state intervening or even protesting. The court said it was “strange that the state did not see as a priority enforcing the law against individuals and groups that laughed at the law.”

The Lebanese Restaurant is located on the Cross-Shomron Highway, a major thoroughfare that sees tens of thousands of vehicles pass through daily, in a building that was built illegally and has been condemned. The restaurant is owned by an Israeli Arab from Abu Ghosh, and has been operating for several years. Located as it is on what traffic experts called a dangerous curve, Regavim – a pro-settler organization that takes legal action against construction by Arabs that lacks proper permits – has long demanded that if the state refused to enforce orders to shut down the restaurant and demolish it, a safety barrier should at least be placed at the side of the road.

After a previous High Court petition, the Israel Highways Corporation (Ma’atz), responsible for the road, did just that — but after merely a few days, the restaurant owners destroyed the guardrail that had been set up, throwing the debris on the side of the highway. In addition, they paved a new exit from the highway to the restaurant, further endangering drivers.

All appeals to the state to shut down the restaurant or to restore the guardrail have fallen on deaf ears, with the state absolutely refusing to take action — so Regavim again appealed to the High Court, demanding action, and in a decision rendered this week, the court demanded to know as well why the state refused to act. The refusal of the state to act “is causing a first-class danger on a major highway. Is it not a priority of the state to enforce the law when a safety guardrail is destroyed and thrown to the side of the road illegally? If it endangers lives, it certainly should be.” The court gave the state 45 days to restore the guardrail and cut off access to the restaurant from the highway.

Attorney Boaz Arzi expressed satisfaction at the decision. Besides the issue of property rights, which figured in the decision to evict 40-plus families from their homes in Amona, the matter involved here was one of life and death. “If there had been an accident because of this situation, the news would be full of recriminations the next day. Why is the state not worried about dealing with problems like these before they happen?”