High Court Calls Halt to Building of New Neighborhood in Ofra

Justice rules that settlement construction violates court order forbidding the issue of building permits within the settlement's jurisdiction.

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High Court Justice Uzi Fogelman has called a halt to the building of a new neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

On Sunday Fogelman ruled that in resuming construction on the neighborhood last month, the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council violated an interim order of the High Court of Justice, which forbade it to issue building permits for a new neighborhood within Ofra’s jurisdiction.

In 2011, Amana, headed by Ze’ev (Zambish) Hever, began construction of a new neighborhood with dozens of residential units on land confiscated during the period of Jordanian rule for the purpose of building a military base. Construction on the site was carried out without permits, and when it started the landowners - Palestinian residents of the village of Silwad - petitioned the High Court to demolish the buildings.

In response to the petition, the state claimed that it intended to legalize the construction retroactively, although two years earlier the state had promised to enforce the law in cases of building violations in Ofra.

In June 2011, Justice Miriam Naor issued an interim order forbidding construction in the area until 30 days had elapsed from the time building permits were issued. Following the ruling, the petition was erased in 2013. Justice Naor’s decision stated that “the interim order should be left in place. The order would stand until 30 days after the approval of the plan.” The justices added that they were directing the attention of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, the settlement of Ofra, Amana and the World Zionist Organization to the existence of the order.

Last month, the Civil Administration granted final approval to the master plan at the site, which includes legalization of the Amana housing units. Two days later the Planning and Construction Committee of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council convened and construction was resumed immediately.

At the same time the Palestinian landowners filed a petition with the High Court, claiming that private construction on their land cannot be approved. They claim that as is customary in Israel, when the purpose of the confiscation has been withdrawn (in this case, building a military base), the land must return to them. In that petition it became clear that work on the site had resumed despite the fact that it had not been 30 days since the issuing of the permit.

Last Thursday Uzi Fogelman asked the state and the regional council to explain why the permits that were issued do not contradict the interim order, and at the beginning of this week he ruled that the interim order is valid and construction at the site is forbidden.

Hever refused to respond for this article.

File photo: Cars drive past Ofra.Credit: AP

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