Disputed Footage

Ma’ariv | February 9, 2011 | Amihai Attali

Today the state is supposed to give its response to the High Court of Justice concerning the demolition of 12 houses in Eli, among them the houses of Major Eliraz Peretz, who was killed in the Gaza Strip and Major Roi Klein, who was killed in southern Lebanon. The state is expected to ask for 45 days to respond, because of the complexity in formulating a response. For the first time, Ma’ariv is revealing detailed aerial footage of the neighborhood, including the olive grove that was the reason that some of the neighborhood was declared private Palestinian property. This is where Peretz’s house is built, a fact that makes it very difficult for the Defense Ministry to come up with a clear stance on the sensitive matter.

   The aerial footage clearly shows the olive grove, which is why part of the land is considered Palestinian property. Two of the 12 houses in the neighborhood were built on this land, one of them the house of Eliraz Peretz. Now legal advisors in the Housing Ministry are attempting to come up with a solution that will provide a permanent solution to the problem and will prevent the demolition of the homes where Major Peretz’s widow and children still live. Also Klein’s house is included in the petition, however, from the footage it can be seen that it resides beyond the farmed area, thus making the issue less complicated.

   The affair began in July 2005, when Peace Now approached the Civil Administration about the houses. Peace Now argued that the houses were built without a master plan and should therefore be demolished, and were told that a demolition order had indeed been issued. In September 2005, Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice seeking that it order the demolition to proceed. Since that time, for five and a half years now, the legal procedure has been dragging on, in the course of which the state has sought an extension in the implementation of the order over 30 times.

   The first turnaround occurred in July 2006. Major Roi Klein, who lived in one of the houses, was killed in southern Lebanon. After his death, the legal process slowed down, however, the state’s request for an extension did not state explicitly that it was seeking to legalize the houses. In April 2010 Major Eliraz Peretz, who had also lived in one of the homes, was killed in the Gaza Strip. […]

   Today the state is expected to seek an additional extension from the court. The request will state that in the near future the defense minister and attorney general will meet to find a solution to legalize the houses. Peace Now stated last night: “the footage clearly proves that those responsible for the illegal construction are the settlers and their construction firm. They should apologize before the Klein, Peretz and other families for having sold them illegal homes.

   However, Eli Local Committee Chairman Kobi Eliraz argues that the land belongs to the state: “The land seen in the footage is state land that is located inside the decreed boundaries of the Eli community and this is where the neighborhood resides. It is possible to see the land’s proximity to the houses and the road leading to them. The grove was planted on state land and is not privately owned land. In 2001 the grove was dry and abandoned and today not a person can be found claiming ownership and who can prove that he cultivated the land.”