Israeli high court dismisses petition seeking greater Palestinian autonomy in construction permits

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed a petition that sought to give Palestinians local planning rights in the West Bank.

The ruling on Tuesday rejected the petitioners’ claims that Israel discriminates against Palestinians in its management of housing permits in Area C, the parts of the West Bank managed by Israel under the Oslo Accords.

Israel’s Rabbis for Human Rights, the Palestinian village of Ad-Deirat and three other organizations filed the petition, according to Agence France-Presse.

Palestinians argue that because Israel approves so few permits for building Arab housing in the area, they have no choice but to build without permits — which results in Israel demolishing the homes.

Rabbis for Human Rights criticized the ruling, saying it legitimized “a regime of separation and discrimination” and “strengthened military control over the lives of millions of Palestinian residents at all levels of life in the West Bank.”

In 2014, Israel’s Civil Administration, the highest civilian authority in the West Bank, issued a single building permit to Palestinians and conducted 493 demolitions, according to AFP. Jews living in the West Bank also complain of what their leaders have called an unofficial freeze in construction. In January, Israel’s housing ministry published tenders for the construction of 440 housing units in Judea and Samaria, though the ministry said it had merely republished tenders that had already been issued in previous years.

In a response to AFP, the Civil Administration insisted it does not discrimnate between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The planning committee of the Civil Administration gives construction schemes equal treatment in accordance with their compliance with relevant building standards,” the administration’s statement read. “However, the promotion of such plans is determined by the political echelon.”

One Palestinian village scheduled for demolition for illegal construction is Susiya, where European Union officials and several nonprofit organizations have recently visited to rally on behalf of the 300 Palestinians who live there.

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