Interior Ministry Top Official Lives in a West Bank Home Under Demolition Order

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Ayelet Shaked and Yair Hirsch in 2018
Ayelet Shaked and Yair Hirsch in 2018Credit: Emil Salman

Interior Ministry director-general Yair Hirsch lives in a home that has a demolition order issued against it in the illegal settlement outpost of Kida, a freedom of information request submitted by Israeli activists revealed on Monday. 

This information contradicts a Civil Service Commission's statement from last month insisting that no such demolition order was issued, only a stop-work order in 2008, which was no reason to block Hirsch’s appointment to his post. The commission now says that the information is being checked.

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Hirsch said through the Interior Ministry that he does not know of the order. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s office said, “At issue is state land and a community that is in the process of being regularized. Minister Shaked is pleased that the director-general of her ministry lives in Kida.”

Information about the order was obtained through a freedom of information request submitted by Dror Etkes, a researcher for the Kerem Navot organization, through attorney Shachar Ben-Meir. According to the information received, in 2008 the Civil Administration issued an order to stop development work that Hirsch was doing on his home at Kida.

Stop-work orders are issued on illegal buildings or construction work. After it is issued, a committee convenes and the recipient of the order must prove that the work is being done with a permit. According to the information Etkes received, the committee that convened about Hirsch’s home decided to issue a demolition order. Once a demolition order is issued for a structure under construction, the Civil Administration does not usually issue another order for the house built in defiance of it, and the previous order remains in force.

A settler works on a construction site for a new house in the Kida outpost near the Israeli Shilo settlement, January 27, 2020Credit: AFP

Kida is an illegal outpost of around 80 families. It was established without a master plan or building permits, and as of November 2020 it has 110 pending demolition orders against it. Outposts throughout the West Bank have many demolition orders pending that have never been enforced, and the Civil Administration justifies this by claiming it has “priorities.”

The Civil Service Commission, in its response to this report, said the fact that enforcement is not a high priority for the Civil Administration is one reason to approve Hirsch’s appointment despite the violation. In practice, the demolition of Jewish homes in the West Bank is a sensitive political issue and the lack of enforcement stems from domestic political considerations.

Kida is part of the Shiloh bloc, near the settlement of the same name, which is the largest concentration of outposts in the West Bank. In 2005, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice asking for the evacuation of the Adei Ad outpost, the state said it was planning to legalize this bloc of outposts. However, the bloc was never legalized and thus Kida remains illegal.

The Civil Service Commission said last month in response to a Haaretz query that it found no demolition order issued for Hirsch’s home, but rather a stop-work order from 2008. Since there had been no further decision on the matter, the material was forwarded to the attorney general and the appointments committee. “The committee considered the matter and even heard the candidate’s testimony to the committee, and came to the conclusion that the allegations in this matter need not prevent the appointment to the position, given the overall circumstances,” the commission said at the time.

The Interior Ministry said: “Yair Hirsch has made it clear that he isn’t aware of a demolition order from 2008. The questions in this matter are being checked by the competent authorities.”

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