Is Israel aiding illegal Arab construction in Judea and Samaria?

“Each request, no matter how ridiculous, automatically suspends enforcement and pushes off the structure’s demolition by two or three years”

By Aryeh Savir/TPS

The Regavim Movement has submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice alleging that the Civil Administration, an arm of the Defense Ministry, operates according to an illegal internal protocol, and the body in charge of enforcement is “aiding and encouraging illegal construction.”

Among other things, the IDF’s Civil Administration is tasked with acting against illegal construction in Area C in Judea and Samaria, under full Israeli control.

Regavim is alleging that Arab construction offenders receive demolition orders but the State of Israel, via the Civil Administration, “allows the criminal to launch a bureaucratic cat-and-mouse game” and does not actually act on the demolition orders.

By simply applying for a building permit, submitting an appeal when the permit request is denied, applying for a ‘taba’ (urban planning permit), and even an “exemption from enforcement,” the offender “enjoys blanket protection against enforcement for years on end – even though this protection has no basis in the law. This is standard procedure,” Regavim says.

“Each request, no matter how ridiculous, automatically suspends enforcement and pushes off the structure’s demolition by two or three years. By then, another planning request is submitted, enforcement is again suspended, and so on. Once the process finally runs its course, the structure is considered ‘old construction’ – which doesn’t interest anyone, certainly not the Civil Administration’s enforcement officers,” Regavim explained.

The organization, which is dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources, says that the legal departments of Israel’s security establishment are responsible for this procedural protocol, which is “aiding and abetting the creation of a terrorist state in the heart of the Land of Israel.”

“The Palestinian Authority learned and mastered the game ages ago, and continues to build rapidly, illegally, and strategically, all the while flooding the system with nonsensical, futile permit requests in order to delay and eventually prevent enforcement,” Regavim underscored.

According to data collected by Regavim, in 2009 the number of illegal Arab structures in Area C stood at 29,784, while in 2018 the number surged to 58,435.

The far more worrying statistic is the area covered by illegal Arab construction: In 2009, some 44,538 dunams of land in Area C were being occupied illegally by Arab construction. In 2018, over 78,626 dunams have been overtaken.

While serving as Defense Minister in 2019, Naftali Bennet threatened to demolish any illegal Arab construction in Area C.

In response to an inquiry on the issue by TPS, a senior official in the Defense Ministry stated that the “phenomenon of illegal Palestinian construction in Area C is one of the main issues that Defense Minister Bennett is dealing with, and he has already begun to work to eradicate the phenomenon.”

However, he has failed to act on his pledges.