|The following alert has been jointly issued by Ir Amim and Bimkom.
As a follow-up to our previous alerts, the hearing on the appeal concerning 38 homes under threat of demolition in the Jerusalem portion (Ein Juweize) of al-Walaja was held yesterday at the Supreme Court and adjourned with a positive interim outcome. A ruling on the appeal has been effectively postponed for at least another seven months, and the injunction protecting the 38 homes remains intact to allow for further advancement of urban planning in the village.
Upon the hearing’s commencement, the village's legal counsel cited the progress that has been made in the urban planning sphere for the community and the advancement of dialogue between the residents and relevant state authorities. The justices expressed satisfaction with the developments, noting documents submitted to the court by the residents’ attorney, which explicitly demonstrate the progress made. Among the evidence submitted was a letter from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which articulated their overall support for the promotion of proper residential development of al-Walaja.
The village’s legal counsel then stated that in light of the urban planning progress, the state attorney has proposed to defer proceedings on the appeal until November 1, 2022. This would effectively extend the demolition freeze on the 38 homes, while allowing for further advancement of a zoning plan in the village.
Consequently, the court decided to postpone a ruling on the appeal, allowing the injunction, currently protecting the 38 homes, to remain in place until at least November 1, 2022. In its decision, the court instructed both sides to submit an update on the matter by that date, and all subsequent course of action would be decided thereafter.
This constitutes a significant provisional outcome. Not only has the Supreme Court extended the demolition freeze on the 38 homes and explicitly conveyed its support for a planning solution in al-Walaja, but such developments also appear to mark a shift in the state’s attitude and position concerning the need for an equitable planning arrangement for the village.
Such an outcome is the direct result of concerted efforts by the al-Walaja community together with human rights organizations and activists who have been working to not only freeze demolitions, but also advance a fair planning solution, which would authorize the existing homes and provide for future residential development.
It should be noted that while the demolition freeze applies to the 38 homes included in the 2018 class action appeal, demolition orders issued against homes after submission of the appeal have not been frozen and therefore can be executed at any time. There were roughly a dozen homes not included in the appeal which face impending demolitions, four of which were carried out over the past six months. It is therefore vital to continue to work with the Israeli government to obtain a freeze on all demolition orders in the village in light of the overall intent to advance planning for the area.
The preparation of a zoning plan, which will provide an equitable solution to the housing and development needs of al-Walajeh, while also meeting the state’s conditions remains a long and onerous task. To this end, the community is in the midst of negotiations with a professional planning team to begin the next planning stages. However, in order for these planning efforts to succeed, it is critical to continue engaging with the Israeli authorities to ensure they work with the community to ultimately approve a plan, which would retroactively authorize existing homes, while likewise enabling adequate development of the village in the future.