Israel to Resolve Palestinian House Demolition Orders by Summer

If the demolition process is indeed accelerated, around 1,000 Palestinian children in particularly deprived communities stand to lose their schools.

The State Attorney's Office has promised to respond by August 2012 to all pending appeals by Palestinians against demolition orders for structures built without permits. In practice, this will accelerate the demolition of many such buildings, including schools.

This conclusion is implied in the state's response last week to an amicus curiae brief filed in connection to an appeal against the destruction of Khirbet Zanuta, a Palestinian village in the West Bank.

Demolition of East Jerusalem house

Regavim, a nongovernmental organization that describes itself as an apolitical NGO whose purpose is "to protect the nation's lands and assets," has asked to join, as a friend of the court, the appeal filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Regavim views the promise by the State Attorney's Office as a product of its judicial and PR pressure campaign against what it calls the failure to enforce building laws in Area C of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords is under full Israeli control. That promise, however, was tempered by the restriction, "subject to other pressures."

According to UN figures, in 2011 Israel's Civil Administration increased the pace of removing unauthorized Palestinian structures in Area C, demolishing around 500 - including roads, wells and residential tents and shacks. An estimated 1,000 Palestinians were affected by the demolitions.

In response to an inquiry from Regavim, in June the Justice Ministry said that since 2008 the High Court of Justice has issued 162 injunctions preventing the Civil Administration from demolishing Palestinian buildings.

Among the structures whose demolition was postponed by the High Court over the past several years were 32 Palestinian schools with demolition or stop-work orders over all or part of the structure. According to United Nations figures, 24 are still in danger of being torn down. The last of these to receive a demolition order, on November 24, 2011, was in Susiya.

If the demolition process is indeed accelerated, as will happen if the State Attorney's Office fulfills its promise to respond to all outstanding appeals and not to continue to postpone its responses as it often has in the past, around 1,000 Palestinian children in particularly deprived communities stand to lose their schools.

Some of the schools sentenced to demolition have been torn down and rebuilt two or even three times. Others do not face demolition, but are prohibited from adding new classrooms or expanding the playgrounds.