Court: Abu Basma council has year to demolish illegal homes

The Abu Basma Regional Council, in the northwest Negev, does not enforce building laws in its Beduin villages, partly because it was established to win the confidence of the residents, council head Amram Qalaji told the Beersheba District Court for Administrative Matters.
Qalaji was responding to a petition demanding that the council implement 30 demolition orders against luxury homes in the council’s jurisdiction.
His argument did not help. Last week, Judge Sarah Dovrat accepted a petition by Regavim, the Movement for Protecting National Lands, calling on it to order the council to demolish the buildings.
“We cannot approve of a situation in which a government authority does not uphold the law in its jurisdiction,” she wrote.
“Therefore, I order the Regional Council of Abu Basma to take the measures called for in the Planning and Building Law against illegal construction regarding the houses included in the petition.”
Dovrat gave the council one year to implement the ruling.
Regavim called the ruling precedent-setting. “For the first time, Beduin luxury houses built without a permit will be demolished,” it said in a statement.
In Qalaji’s response to the petition, he wrote that it was impossible for the regional council to cope with all the illegal construction taking place under his jurisdiction. The Abu Basma Regional Council, which was formed as a result of Government Resolution 881 of September 28, 2003, is comprised of 10 villages dispersed over an area of 50,000 dunams (5,000 hectares). It has only one building supervisor for the entire area.
“The council cannot indiscriminately serve dozens and perhaps hundreds of indictments against building violators, while the very same residents who accepted the regional council with hope, will come to regard it as being there to harm them,” Qalaji said.
He also said the Beduin had no choice but to build without permitsbecause there were no outlines or detailed plans for the villages. Thebuildings should not be demolished before such plans are developed andthe owners have a chance to ask for building permits, he maintained.
However, Dovrat, quoting from the Supreme Court decision on the issue,ruled that even if there were no plans on the basis of which buildingpermits could be issued, the Beduin did not have the right to buildillegally.