HCJ: South Hebron Hills Palestinian eviction case should be mediated

1,000 Palestinians in 8 villages in south Hebron are under threat of IDF eviction; state’s attorney argues land needed for IDF training.

IDF soldiers in Hebron (photo credit: Reuters)
IDF soldiers in Hebron
(photo credit: Reuters)
The High Court of Justice on Monday took a step in favor of the 1,000 Palestinians in eight villages in the South Hebron Hills under threat of an IDF eviction from Firing Zone 918 when it suggested that the case would be better handled through mediation than in its chambers.
During a debate at the court in Jerusalem, Justice Asher Grunis stopped state attorney Illil Amir-Kasif as she began arguing the state’s position that Firing Zone 918 was necessary for IDF training and that therefore the area needed to be evacuated.
Grunis suggested to Kasif that mediation through a retired Supreme Court judge might be a more proper channel to come to a resolution.
Kasif said that attempts to mediate the issue in the past had failed.
Grunis gave the state until October 7 to present its position on the matter. The attorneys for the Palestinians, in turn, said they would accept mediation.
“We were pleased by the suggestion,” said Mark Grey, a spokesman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, an Israeli NGO that filed a petition before the court regarding the fate of the Palestinians.
The issue dates back to 1999, when the IDF first issued eviction orders. ACRI filed an initial petition in 2000, but the case lay mostly dormant until 2011, when the IDF again actively sought to evict the Palestinians.
ACRI refiled its petition in 2012. On Monday, its attorney, Tamar Feldman, argued that the Palestinians had lived in the area for generations, since before 1967, and should be allowed to remain since their presence predated the IDF declaration of a firing zone. The Palestinians use the land for herding and agriculture, she explained.
Feldman noted that there are 9 million dunams set aside for firing zones in Israel, out of which a million are in the West Bank. Firing Zone 918 makes up only 26,000 dunams, Feldman argued, asking how it could be so vital.
The forcible relocation of these families is against international law, she continued.
Amir-Kasif argued that the Palestinians had used that land but only began building permanent structures there once the IDF declared it to be a firing zone.
Simultaneous to the work that ACRI is doing on the case, Rabbis for Human Rights is working to develop zoning plans for the villages so they could become legally authorized.