The Yerushalayim District Court has ruled that unless it comes to an agreement with the state, the United Nations cannot continue with construction of a new project, part of which is illegally built on state land. The decision came in response to a lawsuit by the Regavim organization, a watchdog group that seeks to prevent illegal Palestinian building in Israel.
According to the lawsuit, UNTSO – United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, a U.N. body that since 1948 has been charged with enforcing ceasefires between Israel and its Arab neighbors, has been building new structures in a historic compound that was the home of British Mandatory headquarters in the 1930s. The building has been declared a historical site, but that has not stopped UNTSO from building a two-story structure on the property. In addition, the lawsuit charges, the organization built an unlicensed gas station on the site.
In research done by Regavim, the organization discovered that the area that the U.N. was to use for its facilities totaled 44.6 dunam. The lease was given by the British government in perpetuity, for free. Since then, however, the area used by UNTSO has expanded to 77.5 dunam, with the extra space illegally taken over. Unless the UN comes to an agreement with the state about that land, construction of the project cannot continue, the court said.
In a statement, Regavim praised the decision. “The U.N.’s diplomatic immunity does not give it license to violate the laws of the host state,” the group said. “Until our lawsuit, the U.N. was doing as it pleased, where it pleased, completely ignoring the laws of Israel. The court has ruled that construction cannot continue without the agreement of the state. We plan to file an additional lawsuit regarding an additional 30 dunams that the U.N. is illegally using as well.”