Top court rejects appeal against construction of new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron

Ruling seen as last legal hurdle to 31-home development underway in divided West Bank city; watchdog that filed appeal urges government to halt project before it’s ‘a done deal’

This screenshot from video released by Peace Now on October 21, 2021, shows construction on new settlement units in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Screenshot/Twitter)
This screenshot from video released by Peace Now on October 21, 2021, shows construction on new settlement units in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Screenshot/Twitter)

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal against the establishment of a new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron’s old city.

Called the Hezekiah Quarter, the new neighborhood is expected to include 31 residential units, including a six-story apartment building. Construction began last year.

The court ruling is likely the last legal hurdle for expanding the flashpoint Jewish settlement in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank.

The appeal, submitted by the Peace Now settlement watchdog and the Hebron Municipality, argued that the construction permit for the neighborhood deviated from the building plans of the old city, which limits construction to two-story buildings with a maximum height of nine meters.

The planned six-story building in the new neighborhood is expected to be 24 meters high.

The appeal also claimed that building plans in the area require new projects to be examined for their impact on existing properties and that the approved plans for the neighborhood failed to do so.

Furthermore, the Hebron Municipality — part of the Palestinian Authority — argued that it has the authority to approve or reject building plans in the city and not the Supreme Planning Council, which is part of the military unit responsible for liaising with the Palestinians.

Supreme Court Justices Yosef Elron, Alex Stein and Shaul Shohat rejected that argument, ruling that the planning council’s approval of the neighborhood was valid. The state had claimed the Hebron Municipality systematically refuses to promote building plans submitted by Jews, which is why the planning council intervened.

The court decision also noted the planning council had examined claims regarding certain buildings in the area and found that none of them were, in fact, ancient or required to be preserved.

The judges further ruled that the Peace Now NGO and the Hebron Municipality will each pay the state and the Jewish settlement in Hebron NIS 10,000.

“The Kahanist settlement in Hebron is the ugliest face of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Building a new settlement in the heart of Hebron constitutes a great deal of damage to Israel and completely contradicts the founding principles of the government,” Peace Now said in a statement following the ruling.

“Now, after the court has decided not to intervene, a determined action carried out by the government is necessary in order to stop the devastating construction work immediately, before it becomes a done deal.”

People walk near houses that belong to Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron on November 12, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The construction of the new neighborhood was approved by the government more than four years ago, with over $6 million allocated.

According to Peace Now, the project is the first major expansion of the Jewish community in Hebron in two decades.

The court decision may also create a precedent for the approval of another Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, according to the Haaretz daily.

Hebron residents have said the new neighborhood would exacerbate friction in the area.

“It means an increase in violence. It means the restrictions on us as Palestinians. It means changing the identity of our own city to an Israeli, Hebrew city,” Hebron resident Issa Amro, an activist against settlements, told AFP in an October report.

About 1,000 settlers live in Hebron under heavy military protection among more than 200,000 Palestinians.

Hebron contains the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site, also known as Ibrahimi mosque, which is revered by both Jews and Muslims. That area is part of the 20% of Hebron that remains under Israeli control, with the other 80% of the city under Palestinian Authority control, under a 1997 agreement.

AFP contributed to this report.

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