The Settlements Arrangement Law, passed nearly two months ago, has apparently kicked into action, Army Radio reported on Monday, as the Civil Authority canceled several demolition orders that had been issued against buildings in the Binyamin region town of Psagot. According to the report, four such orders that had been issued, requiring residents to evacuate their homes so they could be torn down, were canceled. The report said that other orders that were set to be issued later in the week for homes in Kochav Yaakov and Kiryat Sefer will also be canceled.
The decision to demolish the homes had been made in response to a lawsuit by leftist groups on behalf of alleged Palestinian owners of the land on which the homes were built. Similar to the situation in Amona and other communities, the orders were to have seen the homes demolished even though no specific proof of ownership has been presented, in line with decisions by the High Court.
However, the Settlement Arrangements Law changes all that. Under the law, in cases where Palestinians merely claim ownership and do not provide proof, the government has a right to arrogate the land and offer equitable compensation to the alleged owners, similar to the process of eminent domain. Under Israeli military law, a claim of ownership based largely on the say-so of alleged former owners of the land was sufficient for the High Court to rule that homes built on that land should be demolished. Under the new law, such rulings no longer apply in these cases.
The cancellation of the demolition orders does not remove the threat that the homes will eventually be demolished, said Boas Arzi, an attorney representing the Psagot homeowners. “The cancellation means that proceedings against these owners have been frozen, as the government seeks to provide compensation for its alleged owners. This way, the government can ensure that scenarios such as the ones we saw at Amona do not repeat themselves.”
A Peace Now representative said that cancellation of the demolition orders “reveals the true meaning of the Settlements Arrangement Law, which we were told was supposed to prevent the eviction of innocent families. Now we see that it is really designed to enable settlers to build without limit.”