New Palestinian city of Rawabi in legal battle with Israel over its access roads

Rawabi was created by Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri. It is designed for a population of 40,000. The first batch of families, over 350, moved in this summer.

August 2, 2016 11:06
3 minute read.

Rawabi, the first modern planned Palestinian city. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Israel's High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the developer of the Palestinian city of Rawabi to fix the legal issues plaguing its access roads, which are located in Area C of the West Bank.

It did so following a hearing in response to a petition by the Israeli non-governmental group Regavim, which focuses on issues of illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank.

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Regavim turned to the HCJ in 2014 after it learned that there were outstanding legal issues with regard to a main access road to the city as well as an alternative route for cars to exit and enter.

Rawabi itself, which is the first modern planned Palestinian city, is located in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which is under Palestinian civil control.

But it has struggled with infrastructure issues because of its proximity to Area C, which is under full Israeli military and civilian control.

The property in area C that was designated for the road is registered in the Civil Administration as belonging to private Palestinians.

Rawabi’s attorney, Shay Zukerman told The Jerusalem Post, that his client had purchased all the property in question and that no one’s property rights would be violated in the completion of the roads.

“The issue is a technical and bureaucratic one,” he said, as he explained that it has been complicated to meet all the Civil Administration requirements for registering the property.

He was confident, he said, that all the outstanding issues would be resolved. Among Rawabi’s problems with the Civil Administration is that some of the legal work with regard to the purchase of the property was done with technical approvals from the Palestinian Authority, such as the issuance of the power of attorney.

During Monday’s court hearing, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, called the submission of PA documents to the Civil Administration “provocative.”

Zuckerman responded by stating: “there was no intention to be provocative.” He added that alternative documents would be submitted.

During the hearing both he and the state asked the HCJ to dismiss the case, since Rawabi and the Civil Administration were working on resolving the matter.

This is a city with thousands of people that will need a road, Zuckerman told the HCJ. But the HCJ has rejected their requests.

Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayot said that it seemed to her that there was still a land issue because it appeared as if the owner of one of the lots had yet to be identified.

The HCJ requested an update from Rawabi within six months.

A spokesman for Regavim told the Post, that it did not believe that all the purchase-claims with regard to the road could be properly registered with the Civil Administration and as such an alternative would have to be found.

In advance of the hearing, the state told the HCJ that Rawabi had been granted temporary authorization to work on the access roads until a solution was found.

It added, however, that the Civil Administration could not legalize the roads until the property issues around it had been resolved.

The Civil Administration and representatives for Rawabi are discussing ways to resolve all the outstanding issues between them, it said.

Rawabi was created by Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri. It is designed for a population of 40,000. The first batch of families, over 350, moved in this summer.

The project has attracted international attention and was one of the places that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited when he was in Israel and the Palestinian territories last month.

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