The Defense Minister is ‘clueless’ about illegal land grabs in Area C, comparing Jewish settlement to PA strategy to take over Israeli territory by establishing facts on the ground, says the group.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is letting the Palestinian Authority (PA) “conquer Israeli territory without a shot being fired” by being “clueless” in his comparison of their massive illegal land grabs in Judea and Samaria to Jewish wildcat settlements, a right-wing organization charged Wednesday.
The harsh statement of Regavim, which aims to protect the natural resources of the state for the Jewish people, came after Gantz wrote to Likud MK Keti Sheetrit nearly eight months after she had officially requested to know what his ministry was doing about the hostile takeover of open spaces in Judea and Samaria by the Palestinian Authority’s (PA).
His leadoff point was that there are “attempts to trespass and to commandeer land in Judea and Samaria by both Palestinians and Israelis.” He also excused the Palestinians’ actions by saying that part of the reason was “the lack of sufficient planning for the Palestinian population.” His solution, he wrote, was to “advance building permits also in Area C, which are essentially the proper regulation of existing Palestinian settlement.”
“This document indicates that the present Defense Minister is completely clueless regarding the strategic issues involved,” Regavim CEO Meir Deutsch said in response. “[Gantz] has compared a situation described by the Palestinian Authority itself as its primary objective for the past decade, establishing the Palestinian state in Area C – an objective that is funded by European support in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year…. this enormous, organized, systematic program of annexation, to illegal construction in the Jewish sector in Judea and Samaria, the sum total of which amounts to some 3000 structures.”
“The Defense Minister’s utter lack of understanding of this matter is an existential threat to the State of Israel,” he added. “It is clear to us that this disgraceful document, which reflects a dangerous and reckless approach to the problem, will be a key piece of evidence in the official hearings of the Commission of Inquiry … that will be appointed to investigate and analyze the conceptual failure behind Israel’s acquiescence to the conquest of Israeli territory by the Palestinian Authority without a single shot being fired.”
According to Regavim’s research, the PA has already built in Area C dozens of kilometers of roads, “hundreds of public structures, schools and religious institutions in illegal outposts,” taken over “hundreds of thousands of dunams of Israeli state land” through agricultural cultivation, and “orchestrate[s] the construction of some 3500 illegal structures each year.”
The right-wing group said that by not cracking down on the widespread illegalities, Gantz was “handing Palestinians a state on a silver platter.”
Area C is under total Israeli military and civilian control. Any construction there, whether Jewish or Arab, is subject to the permission of the defense minister. Gantz’s plan stands in sharp contrast to his approach to young Jewish communities built without all the legal authorizations that have been unsuccessfully begging to receive “proper regulation” of their existing settlements in the region for years.
The defense minister has already authorized Palestinian construction in Area C, to the right wing’s dismay. In August, he approved the building of 1,000 housing units, and said that he intends to approve more “on a regular basis.” Defense Ministry officials said that the purpose of these permits was to strengthen the PA vs. rival Hamas, which is steadily gaining more support in the Authority.
Likud MK Avi Dichter blasted Gantz at the time, saying that “Giving permission to Palestinians to build in Area C is first-rate nonsense and irresponsibility. The Palestinian Authority is pursuing a strategy of building and taking over Israeli land,” so granting Israeli approval means joining with the Palestinian strategy, which is “absurd.”