Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the appeal of Peace Now and the Hebron Municipality against a construction plan for a new Jewish neighborhood in the Old City of Hebron.
The neighborhood, Hezekiah Quarter, whose construction has already begun, will include 31 housing units. The court’s rejection of the appeal removes the final legal objection to the construction of the Jewish neighborhood, concluding a series of failed petitions that were filed against it and thrown out.
Thursday’s decision will likely impact the approval of construction in another Jewish neighborhood, in the wholesale market of Hebron, whose land was owned by Jews before 1948. Under Jordanian occupation, the authorities leased the wholesale market’s land to the Hebron municipality which in turn leased it to local merchants who developed a wholesale market there. In 1994, those stores were closed for security reasons and Hebron merchants established a spacious alternative market in the Arab section of the city.
After seven years in which the market stood desolate, several Jewish families entered the place and set up small residential units there. After they had been issued an eviction order, a compromise was formulated in 2006, according to which the Jewish families would vacate the place, and in return, the state would allow other Jewish families to rent the property. But the implementation of the agreement was blocked by then-Deputy Attorney General Malkiel Blass, who intervened and ruled that the protected housing rights of the Hebron municipality could not be revoked, and the only way out was to “keep it closed, the way it was for seven years until they invaded the property.”
In August 2007, the Absentee Property Commissioner ordered the demolition of the apartments that had been built by Jews in the wholesale market, which effectively returned the abandoned and destroyed property to the original Jewish owners.
The Peace Now and Hebron municipality’s appeal that was rejected on Thursday raised the fact that the building permit given to the neighborhood deviated from the construction plan of the Old City and thus exceeded the planning powers of the Civil Administration. This is because the original construction plan for the area, dating back to 1948, allows only nine-meter-high buildings that include only two floors, while the new construction plan for the neighborhood includes a six-story building which is 24 meters high.
However, the construction plan for the area allows for changes to be made while examining their impact on the properties in the area. The appellants, for their part, argued that the approved changes go beyond what the original plan permitted.
The Hebron municipality further claimed that it has the authority regarding all planning projects in the city, and not the IDF’s Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Council.
But the judges agreed with the state’s claim that since the Hebron municipality does not accept planning requests from Jews, the Civil Administration was right to take away those powers.
The judges––Yosef Elron (appointed in 2017), Alex Stein (2018), and Shaul Shohat (2021)––ordered each of the appellants to pay NIS 10,000 ($3013) to the state and the Jewish community in Hebron.
All’s well that ends well.