HCJ 7986/14 Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights v Head of Civil Administration
Palestinian village council heads of A-Sawaya, Luban a-Sharqiya, and Qaryut petitioned the High Court of Justice with Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights and Yesh Din asking it to prevent the Civil Administration from approving a detailed master plan for the settlement of Eli. The petition also calls on the Court to order the Civil Administration to halt all new construction and refrain from granting construction permits in the plan area. The petition also condemned the Civil Administration’s practice of changing the status of lands based on work undertaken by the “blue line team” for without any possibility of appeal.
According to the petition, Eli’s detailed master plan spans nearly 1,000 dunam (250 acres) and enables construction of 620 residential units, many of which already exist after being built illegally.
According to Supreme Court rulings and several State commitments, settlements may be established or expanded only when land has been declared government property or if Israeli citizens purchased it. And yet, the plan for the settlement of Eli includes extensive areas never declared as state land. According to on-site measurements, 221 dunams (54 acres) – approximately 22 percent of the total plan area – are not included in the only declaration of state land completed in the area in 1983.
Yesh Din claims that the Civil Administration’s “blue line team,” which re-examined the borders of the declaration, subsequently decided on substantial and extensive changes without any due process. In so doing, the State has effectively violated the Palestinian residents’ right to appeal the decision at the Military Appeals Committee. In addition to violating the rights of Palestinian residents in the neighboring villages, the settlement master plan is a substantive violation of administrative norms, as the Civil Administration’s blue line team is not a body authorized to declare state land.
The petition was filed after a an objection to the program by Bimkom and the council heads of the Palestinian villages A-Sawaya, Luban a-Sharqiya, and Qaryut were dismissed, on the claim that the plan does not create a new declaration of state land, but includes a “technical” amendment of errors made in the old declaration.
As a result of the petition, in April 2015, the State Attorney notified the High Court of Justice (HCJ) that the Civil Administration would publish for the first time the results of the work of the “blue line team” in order to enable the landowners to appeal the change in the status of their land. According to the State’s response, the borders of the land declared in the 1980s as state land were determined according to markings using a blue pen on the map, which therefore include many inaccuracies. The State objected to allowing the Palestinian residents to appeal the blue line team’s decision to the Military Appeals Committee, consenting only to the possibility of appealing to the head of the Civil Administration, which heads the body that authorized the change to the status of the land in the first place.
Following the State’s response, Yesh Din argued to the HCJ that the State’s proposed solution was unsatisfactory and that if the State seeks to change the status of land, it should undertake this by a declaration that may be appealed. In February 2016, the HCJ determined that the new procedure formulated by the State for appeals of the blue line team’s decisions must be examined, and instructed the State to provide an update on progress to implementing a procedure regarding the work of the blue line team by June 2016.
Petition Status: Deleted on 18.2.2020; this in accordance with the determination that the claims made will be discussed through proceedings in HCJ 1935/19.
HCJ 1953/19 Qaryut Village Council v. Head of the Civil Administration
Date of submission of the petition: 14.3.19
In March 2019, the heads of the municipalities of Qaryut, Luban a-Sharqiya and A-Sawiya, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) yet again, along with Yesh Din and Bimkom. The petition was filed against the head of the Civil Administration, the Binyamin Regional Council, the Eli Cooperative Association, and the Settlement Division. It demands the revocation of the Civil Administration’s decision to expand the declaration of State (public) land in Eli, and the annulment of the procedure enabling expansion of State (public) land declarations without permitting landowners harmed by the decision to file appeals against the expansion with the Military Appeals Committee, and without conducting a proper judicial process in the context of which their claims will be examined.
According to the procedure formulated by the head of the Civil Administration, it deems itself the body entrusted with examining decisions made by the subordinate Blue Line Team. Thus, there is essentially no possibility for effective judicial review of the team’s decisions. The head of the Civil Administration examines itself through the “objection” mechanism, while simultaneously serving as the body that determines the principles regarding the manner in which the objection is managed, the scope of the information made available to the respondents, and the manner in which the objection is carried out. All of the above stands, despite the fact that there is a functional, experienced, professional, impartial, and independent mechanism, with the status of a tribunal of justice, in the form of the Military Appeals Committee. Therefore, this petition demands that the HCJ order the annulment of the aforementioned procedure.
The petition claims that beyond the matter of principle itself, the procedure for expanding the declaration of State (public) land on territory belonging to the villages of Qaryut, A-Sawiya, and Luban a-Sharqiya (on which the settlement of Eli was built), was tainted by arbitrariness, unilateralism, and concealment, in a manner that impedes the possibility for judicial review of the decision. Thus, the petition not only demands the revocation of the procedure from the rationale in principle, but also the annulment of the expansion of the aforementioned declaration on land belonging to the villages.
During the hearing which took place on 18.2.2020, the justices were critical of the State’s position regarding the use of the procedure for expanding the declaration of State (public) procedure. Justice Mazuz stated: “Even if we use the term ‘exactitude’ and even if the area in question were smaller, in the end there is still a person with half a dunam, upon which he could build a house. It’s his own private land, and today they’re telling him that it’s State Land. […] Why shouldn’t he have his day of legal due process, just as the person in the original declaration did?”
Following the hearing, the High Court issued an order nisi, which instructs the State to explain its reasoning for not allowing every individual whose land was declared as State Land, following the decision of the ‘Blue Line Team’, to appeal the decision before the Military Appeals Committee. The interim order that was given in HCJ 7986/14, which froze any advancement in the Master Plan for the settlement Eli, was cancelled, but a new order was issued which freezes any advancement in the plan in regards to the land over which the declaration was expanded.
Petition status: pending