The High Court of Justice on Monday asked the state to present a plan for an
alternative housing solution for 27 families living in unauthorized structures
in the West Bank village of Khirbat Zanuta.
In 2007, the Civil
Administration issued demolition orders against the structures in the South
Hebron Hills. At the time, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel
successfully secured an injunction order from the high court to stop the
The case lay dormant until last year when Regavim, an
organization dedicated to halting unauthorized Palestinian construction, revived
On Monday, the court heard a debate on the matter during which it
also asked ACRI to provide a zoning plan for the area, or explain why no plan
had been filed.
Both sides were given 30 days to respond to the court on
these questions and other issues, according to ACRI and Regavim.
official decision by the judges, however, was publicized as of press
According to ACRI, the village has existed at the site since before
1967, but the majority of its residents, who herd sheep for their livelihood,
lived in caves.
It is only in the last few decades that they have begun
to set up temporary dwellings, which have expanded in the past decade.
court, ACRI attorney Nira Shalev explained that they need to live at this site
so they can care for their sheep. If they are removed from their site, they will
not just lose their homes, but also their livelihood.
“What little they
have would be taken from them, and they do not have anything else,” Shalev
Justice Edna Arbel asked ACRI why it had not created a master plan
for the village and attempted to file it with the Civil Administration, so that
the homes could be legalized.
Shalev rejected the suggestion.
said it was the state’s responsibility, not that of private individuals or
organizations, to register a zoning plan for the village, through which the
structures would be permitted.
Judge Hanan Meltzer echoed Arbel. He noted
that the order against the structures had been standing for at least five
“What have you done in that time?” he asked ACRI.
said that it had not occurred to ACRI that the Civil Administration would accept
a zoning plan for the village. It would consider presenting such a plan if it
knew the state would accept it, she said.
But the state has not accepted
similar plans for other villages, she said. ACRI assumed it would follow suit in
this case, she said.
Shalev noted the state had already said that there
was an issue because it claimed the structures were on an archeological site.
But, she added, that is not the reason to drive 150 people from their
Arbel asked the state if would accept such a plan.
prosecutor Yitzhak Bart said that he could not evaluate a theoretical plan. But
he noted that the homes were on an archeological site that predated them and had
already been deemed of historical value at the time of the British
The village residents are using some of the archeological
material for their homes, he said.
Under the circumstances, Bart said, it
would be difficult for the Civil Administration to authorize a
Meltzer asked what housing is planned for these villagers once
their homes are demolished.
“I do not see a solution,” said Bart. “We do
not have a plan for illegal buildings that were built in the middle of an
archeological site,” he said.
“Then you must find an alternative for
them,” Meltzer responded. He added that this was the job of a military
Bart said he disagreed.
“The military commander does
not need to find a solution for people who built without a permit.”
asked, “then where will the 27 families [who live there] go?” She added that the
court was suggesting that they explore alternatives for the
Regavim attorney Amir Fisher, who is an unofficial party to the
case, provided the court with information about the site.
that 13 years ago there were only three structures, now there are dozens. He
added that in the intervening years, the villagers received a number of
injunctions against pending demolition orders and had continued to
Bart said many of the homes built were demolished and rebuilt
between 2003 and 2007.
Shalev took issue with both Fisher and Bart’s
characterization and accused them of trying to create the impression that the
village had been only recently created, when it fact it dated back to before
She added that the residents had tried without success to seek
authorization from the Civil Administration.
Arbel responded that since
ACRI had not itself filed a zoning plan for the area, it could not now accuse
the state of failing to do so.
Meltzer also chastised the village
residents for building after the injunction against the demolition had been