State announces it will dismantle illegal construction at Nabi Aner following nullification of Regularization Law

In the wake of the nullification of the law to regularize the settlements, and following a petition by Palestinian landowners: The state announces that it will demolish illegal construction at an archaeological site situated on private Palestinian land near the settlement of Neria

Following a petition to the High Court of Justice by Palestinian residents of the villages Dir Amar and Ras Karkar filed with the assistance of the Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh and after the High Court nullified the Regularization Law, the State announced it intends to remove the illegal construction at the archaeological site Nabi Aner (which the settlers refer to as Einot Aner (Aner Springs)) and its environs, if the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council and the settlement Neria do not do so themselves.

Two and a half years ago, Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh, head of council of the village Ras Karkar, and residents of Dir Amar petitioned the court to instruct the Civil Administration to demolish structures and facilities that were illegally built on the antiquities site Nabi Aner, located on private land belonging to residents of the villages, and a place of historical and religious significance. The site of Nabi Aner houses a Maqam (shrine) which was a place of pilgrimage for the local communities and is located on the route historically taken by Muslim pilgrims to Jerusalem and Hebron. It also features a system of springs whose waters were channeled and collected by a system of canals and pools by local farmers.

For almost twenty years the Palestinian landowners have been prevented from accessing their land at the site. In 2014 the settlers of Neriah and the regional council started developing the site and named it “Gan Hashlosha” after the three Israeli youths who were murdered that year. Benches, picnic tables and paths were added without the permission of the Palestinian landowners, with the aim of turning it into a tourist and leisure attraction.

A significant portion of the discussion in court that took place in December 2018 revolved around the question whether the Regularization Law applies to construction on land that is undisputedly private property. As Justice Vogelman made clear, if the law would not apply to such a case, there is nothing to prevent the removal of illegal construction on the land of protected peoples.

Following the nullification of the Regularization Law, on Wednesday, June 24, the State announced that “under these circumstances, and in the absence of grounds for refraining from carrying out the demolition orders that were issued in accordance with the law with respect to the illegal construction, these will be carried out in accordance with the priorities, to the extent that they are not removed independently within the 90 days allocated in the court judgment in HCJ 1308/17.”

Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh:  Over the years, the authorities in the area have refrained from enforcing the law with respect to illegal construction that was carried out on private land and around the archaeological site.  In recent years, the State used the pretext of the Regularization Law as an excuse for continuing the policy of non-enforcement. This is an example of the importance of the nullification of the Regularization Law, which enabled settlers to take over private lands. But regardless of the Regularization Law and its nullification, we find it regrettable that we were forced to petition the court to instruct the State’s enforcement authorities to simply carry out their duties and prevent the settlers from illegally building on private Palestinian land. We regret that the State does not of its own accord enforce the law and stop the damage to archaeological sites and the process of severing Palestinians from access to their cultural and religious roots.