After repeated delays, the Israeli government has responded to a request for an interim order in a petition filed by the Regavim movement against illegal construction carried out by the UN at the Armon Hanatziv compound.
Armon Hanatziv (Heb: Governor’s Palace) was built in the 1930s the neighborhood of East Talpiot, Jerusalem, during the 1918-1948 British Mandate, to serve as the residence and office of the British High Commissioner. The compound is located on the summit of Mount Etzel, a.k.a. Jebel Mukaber (Arabic: huge mountain), overlooking the Old City from the southeast.
Armon Hanatziv is the property of the State of Israel, which permits the UN to use it as the headquarters of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), whose mission is to supervise the ceasefire between Israel and Jordan – both countries having signed a peace treaty back in 1994.
The state has admitted for the first time that the extensive construction activity at the compound, including works to preserve the historic buildings there, as well as the construction of illegal structures inside the compound, have been carried out without permits, stating, “The planning and building laws of the State of Israel apply to the compound and to the works that are the subject of the petition; and the UN is expected to act in accordance with the principles of the relevant planning and building laws.”
Regavim also accused the UN contingency of illegally invading a large swath of state-owned land beyond the compound’s boundaries.
However, the state expressed its opposition to issuing an interim injunction prohibiting the continuation of the work inside the compound, citing the fact that the UN enjoys immunity from prosecution and legal action against it, and noting that “if there are disagreements between the State of Israel and the United Nations on this matter, they should be resolved through diplomatic channels.”
The state then detailed contacts between the Foreign Ministry and relevant UN officials in Israel and New York over the past few weeks.
In short, the UN compound is much like those limousines with CD license plates parked by fire hydrants in New York City, with the exception that when Israeli cops get really worked up they can’t tow it away.
Attorney Avi Segal of the Regavim Movement said in a statement that the “illegal work should be stopped immediately, even if by a decree against the Israeli companies that are actually carrying out the construction violations in breach of the law. The claim as if the UN has absolute immunity that allows it to build as much as it likes on the assets of the State of Israel and contrary to the building laws is unacceptable. Its immunity is only for the fulfillment of his diplomatic tasks, not for offenses and the theft of land from the host country which has granted it use, free of charge, of its land and property.”