The High Court of Justice green-lighted construction of a six-story, 31-unit settler apartment complex in Hebron, known as the Hizkiyahu Quarter.
On Thursday, the High Court dismissed a petition against the project filed by the left-wing group Peace Now and the Palestinian-run Hebron Municipality, ordering both plaintiffs to pay a combined total of NIS 20,000 in court costs.
The court decision closes the avenue for legal appeal against the project, which will be the first entirely new construction on Hebron’s Shahadah Street. There are no other six-story buildings on that stretch of road.
This is the first construction project to receive approval in 17 years. Once completed, Hizkiyahu Quarter will allow for the expansion of the city’s small Jewish community, who live in a section of the city under the IDF’s control.
The Hebron Jewish community said that the court’s decision “ends a long legal campaign designed to try to deprive Jews of the basic human right – the ability to build a home.”
The right to housing has been denied at a time when Arabs in Hebron have built thousands of homes, including large buildings, the Jewish community said.
Hebron is home to over 215,000 Palestinians. It has a Jewish history that dates back to the Bible, which records Abraham’s purchase in Hebron of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The city is also one of the flashpoints of violence for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli Left and the Palestinians believe that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank, including from Hebron, thereby ending its military rule there.
Peace Now called on the government to intervene and to halt the construction of the project, which already began in October of last year.
According to the left-wing NGO, the project is one of the “uglier faces of Israeli control of the territories. Building a new settlement in the heart of Hebron will be greatly damaging to Israel and completely contradicts the government’s guidelines.”
The property itself has been in Jewish hands since Hayyim Israel Romano built a Jewish apartment building there in 1876. Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, purchased it in 1912 for the Torat Emet Yeshiva and gave it to the Jewish community that returned to the city in 1979.
The Jordanian government had built a bus terminal on a portion of the property that was not used for the school when it controlled the city from 1948 to 1967.
The plot of land was then transferred to the Custodian of Abandoned Properties, which leased it for a bus station until the IDF seized it for military use in the 1980s.
The Jewish community pushed to use the site for residential purposes. The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria gave a nod to the project in 2017 and gave it final approval in October 2020.
The Hebron Municipality and Peace Now had argued that the project did not conform to area zoning laws and that the purview to approve such projects rested with the municipality and not the council.
The High Court upheld the opinion of a lower court that the municipality had abdicated its responsibility to the Hebron Jewish community and that, therefore, such planning matters rested with the council.
The judges said that there were exemptions in the zoning laws that made such a project possible.