On 16/10/17 the Civil Administration’s Subcommittee for Licensing approved the request for a building permit for 31 housing units in a new settlement in Hebron, on the Shuhada Street. This would be the first plan for settlers in Hebron since 2002, when approximately 10 housing units were built in Tel Rumeida under the excuse of a security need. The permit was approved under certain conditions, including the possibility for the municipality of Hebron to object the approval.
Peace Now: “The settlement in Hebron represents the occupation in its most ugly. In order to protect a small group of settlers, tens of thousands of Palestinians had been forced to move from their homes, and roads and shops had been closed. The permits approved today would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by 20%, and they required significant legal acrobatics that might not stand the test of the High Court of Justice. While doing everything in his power to please a small group of settlers, Netanyahu is harming Israel’s morality and image abroad, while crushing basic values of human rights and dignity.”
The land in question was under Jewish ownership before 1948, and the Jordanians leased it to the Hebron municipality for the purpose of establishing a central bus station. After 1967, the land was transferred to the Custodian of Government Property of the Civil Administration, which continued to lease the land to the municipality, under protected tenancy.
During the 1980s, the land was seized for military use through a military order. A military base was established in the area (“Plugat Hamitkanim”) and the central bus station moved to another location. However, the protected tenancy status remained, meaning that once there is no military need, the municipality should be able to lease the land once again.
Two years ago, without any publication, the Civil Administration allocated the land for planning, with the approval of the Minister of Defense. The Ministry of Housing received authorization to plan in the area, and prepared a plan for 31 housing units. This allocation violated the protected tenancy status of the Hebron municipality and the security need for which the land was taken from the municipality turned into a settlement need.
Legally speaking, this is very problematic. On 2007, the Civil Administration’s Legal Advisor issued a legal opinion regarding the residence of six settler families in the military base, and determined that once the security need ends, the land should return to the hands of the Hebron Municipality, whose protected tenancy status cannot be revoked without a proper cause and a court order.
For the full legal opinion (in Hebrew) – click here.
The legal opinion states: “From the perspective of ownership, the area is a property of the government (“Jewish lands” type), run by the Custodian’s Office, but there are protective tenancy rights to the Hebron Municipality. This tenancy was never ended through a judicial decree, as needed according to the Jordanian Law, and based on the position of the Ministry of Justice today, there is doubt if it can be ended in the foreseeable future. Thus, a military seizure order is needed in order to use the area.”
Beyond the loosening of the government’s legal standards, it is important to note that the allocation of land owned by Jews before 1948 and currently under the management of the government constitutes the implementation of the right of return of Jews to properties lost during the 1948 war. This action undermines the Israeli argument that a right of return will not be granted automatically to all Palestinian refugees who had lost their lands during 1948 and that this issue will be resolved through a political agreement and through compensation. Finally, alongside additional developments in Hebron, including the creation of an independent administration and the entry to the Abu Rajab House, this can be seen as another effort by the government to strengthen the radical settlement in the heart of Hebron.
On January 2018, Peace Now filed an objection to the construction permit as well as the Hebron Municipality. The main argument of the Hebron Municipality was that its protected tenancy cannot be revoked this way, and therefore, the permit was not legal. Peace Now also claimed that the permit does not meet the instruction of the valid plan in the area, which is the British plan from the 1940’s.
As of the end of March 2018, the Subcommittee of Licensing of the Civil Administration haven’t set a time for hearing the objections, and the permit is still pending.