Panel Unlawfully Using Outline Plan for Jerusalem


Bimkom and ACRI asked the court today to prevent the unapproved Jerusalem 2000 Outline Plan from being used  to reject building plans that do not comply with it.


In a petition submitted to the Jerusalem Administrative Court on April 21, two human rights organizations, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), asked the court to order the Jerusalem District Planning Committee to stop relying on the unapproved Jerusalem 2000 Outline Plan. Following extensive opposition, the plan was never submitted for public review and never approved and validated as required by law. Instead, and in contravention of legal procedure, planning authorities have been using the plan as a “policy document” with which new building and development plans must comply.  This de facto change bypasses the statutory procedures enacted to ensure transparency and public review.


In the petition, the organizations stress that the unreasonable state of affairs has caused particularly severe harm to the rights and living conditions of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. For over four and a half decades, East Jerusalem has suffered from an acute lack of planning and development. Palestinian residents face extreme limitations on building and planning, and suffer from acute shortage of housing, crowded living conditions, and an across-the-board lack of public spaces and institutions such as schools, medical centers, postal offices, etc.


Palestinians constitute 39% of Jerusalem’s residents, yet the total area designated for building in their neighborhoods covers only 14% of East Jerusalem, or just 7.8% of the entire city. Given the ongoing planning and building crisis in East Jerusalem, the unauthorized use of the unapproved Outline Plan creates further limitations for Palestinian residents wishing to build and develop their homes and neighborhoods.


By bypassing the stage of submitting the plan, the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Building has avoided its legal obligation to give the public the opportunity to present objections and seek compensation for damages caused by the Outline Plan. The committee’s actions contradict the rules of good governance, the principle of legality, the obligation of transparency, and the requirement of including the public in planning procedures.


Architect Efrat Cohen-Bar of Bimkom: “Because of the limitations of planning in Palestinian neighborhoods, the residents took upon themselves to solve the problems resulting from lack of adequate planning and for a decade or so, prior to the freeze caused by the Jerusalem 2000 Outline Plan, they initiated building plans, for themselves and by themselves. Unfortunately, the District Committee decided to ‘freeze’ many such plans, on the basis of an Outline Plan that lacks validation, resulting in an even greater planning chaos in East Jerusalem.”


Attorney Keren Tzafrir of ACRI: “The already limited opportunities faced by East Jerusalem residents in developing their neighborhoods and receiving building permits are being further restricted by the decision to consider the unapproved outline plan as a ‘policy document’. Instead of alleviating the ongoing planning crisis and allowing for improvements in public services, the authorities have chosen to further violate the residents’ rights to adequate housing, education, health and employment.”


Update: At the court hearing held on July 1, 2013, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee claimed before the court that the Jerusalem 2000 Master Plan constitutes an administrative directive, from which it can deviate when appropriate. The representative of the district committee, who was also representing the Minister for the Interior, further explained that due to the appointment of a new minister a short time ago, they are awaiting the release of a new ministerial position allowing the continued promotion of the plan.


In the judgment handed down on September 29, 2013, the court dismissed the petition outright, and accepted the committee’s claim that the petition was too general in its scope. The court held that raising allegations against municipal reliance on the master plan, as opposed to contesting the reliance on a specific provision or the reliance on the plan in a specific instance, prevents the court from ruling on the petition. The court further accepted the argument that relying on the master plan as an administrative guideline is legal. Nonetheless, the court ruled that there is nothing preventing the submission of new petitions based on the rejection of individual plans owing to the policy of relying on the master plan.


ACRI regrets the decision of the court, which among other things granted the ability to circumvent planning and construction laws and public participation in city planning proceedings. The approval the court granted to the continued reliance on the contested master plan will make it difficult to improve the current planning and housing crisis in East Jerusalem.


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Categories: East Jerusalem, Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, Planning and Building Rights

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