Responding to a petition filed by the Regavim Movement, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) issued a preliminary injunction against Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has refused to repeal the Jordanian law still in force in Judea and Samaria prohibiting the sale of land to Jews – despite the recommendations of previous ministers and Ministry of Defense professional and legal advisers.

Today (Tuesday) the High Court of Justice handed down a preliminary injunction requiring the government to submit, within 60 days, a defense of its continued enforcement of Jordanian Law #40 which prohibits the sale of land in Judea and Samaria to Jews. This law, passed in the 1950s during the Jordanian occupation, remains in force to this very day.

Among the many restrictions that apply exclusively to Jews and limit their ability to purchase land in Judea and Samaria, this is perhaps the most egregious – but it is certainly in not alone: Jews, and only Jews, are denied access to the Land Registry for this region, unlike any other area under Israeli jurisdiction, where land deeds and property titles can be obtained with the click of a mouse and downloaded from the government’s website. Likewise, Jews – and only Jews – are required to obtain approval of any property transactions (even when both the buyer and seller are Jews) in Judea and Samaria; Jews alone are subject to a staggering array of military orders that obstruct the use of land. – and the list goes on and on.

Since the liberation of Judea and Samaria in 1967 from Jordanian occupation (which was almost universally rejected and condemned by the international community), land purchases for settlement by Jews were carried out according to extremely convoluted work-around procedures designed to evade the problem rather than solve it: Corporations were registered as legal entities in Judea and Samaria, for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition against sale of property to Jewish individuals , thus avoiding “the Jewish problem.” Aside from the inherent racism of this arrangement, the work-around “solution” has posed a major obstacle to the development of Judea and Samaria, and a major violation of Jews’ fundamental rights.

In late 2018, the Ministry of Defense’s legal counsel and professional staff initiated an examination of Jordanian Law #40 and the regulations that require Jews to receive special permits for property transactions, with an eye toward their repeal.

The conclusions of this examination, reflected in a policy recommendation that took shape in the final months of Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s tenure, were finalized during the tenures of Netanyahu and Naftali Bennet who succeeded Lieberman at the helm of the Defense Ministry. They recommended the repeal of the restrictions that prohibit Jews from purchasing land, as well as a very significant easing of requirements for special land – transaction permits.

Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice when the current Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, announced that he does not intend to repeal Law #40 – despite the recommendations of the Ministry of Defense professionals and his predecessors, Netanyahu and Bennett.

Justices Hendel, Groskopf and Shochat today issued a preliminary order against Defense Minister Gantz, and required him to present his arguments against the repeal of the law within 60 days.

The Regavim Movement welcomed the news of the newly-issued order. Attorney Boaz Arzi said, “Our petition asked an obvious question: How is it possible in Judea and Samaria, of all the places in the world, a racist law still prohibits Jews from buying property? The High Court of Justice has demanded that the government explain why this law is still on the books, and why it is still enforced.”

The ancient aqueduct. Credit: Preserving The Eternal

The illegal Palestinian quarry in Beit Fajjar has damaged around two kilometers of the ancient aqueduct that runs between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. The aqueduct, which dates back some 2,000 years to the time of the Second Temple is considered a marvel of engineering, as it twists and turns for a distance of some 40 km (25 miles) along rocky, hilly terrain that has virtually no incline.

For over 15 years, Regavim has been waging a legal battle to shut down the illegal quarry in eastern Gush Etzion. Responding to our first petition over a decade ago, the government informed the High Court that it had carried out a number of enforcement steps, and was working on a zoning plan for the area that would establish land-use directives for quarrying at the site.

On the basis of the government’s statements and commitments, the High Court rejected Regavim’s petition at that time. Then-Chief Justice Dorit Beinish, who presided over the case, stressed in her judgement that “we are assuming that the enforcement and regulatory actions taken by the respondents will continue, and that the policy that has been formulated will be enforced without interruption.”

Unfortunately, over a decade has passed, and not only have the Israeli authorities failed to take any steps to prevent the continued operation of the quarry, they have allowed it to expand by 33%, deepening the invasion of state land by more than 200 dunams beyond its boundaries. When repeated inquiries and correspondence on the matter were ignored, Regavim went back to court, filing a petition against Minister of Defense Beni Gantz, Minister of the Environment Gila Gamliel, the IDF Commander of Central Command, the Civil Administration and the Israel Police.

Above: 2019. Below: 2009.

The environmental damage caused to this area by the inaction of the authorities responsible for law enforcement is staggering, and, sadly, irreparable. The State of Israel has strict regulations for quarrying permits, and owners and operators are required to finance the rehabilitation of quarried areas when they become inoperative in order to minimize the environmental impact – but this policy vanishes when the imaginary line into Judea and Samaria is crossed. Adding insult to injury, when micro-measures are taken to rehabilitate illegal quarries in these areas, they are paid for by Israeli taxpayers, and the criminals who cause the damage simply carry on, rapaciously exploiting the natural resources of the Land of Israel as they scoff at the law and pocket vast profits, without any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Now, in the latest development, our friends at Preserving the Eternal (“Shomrim al Hanetzach”) have exposed the grave damage to one of Israel’s major archaeological treasures.

The illegal school near Kisan, eastern Gush Etzion

Switzerland is a supposedly neutral country that doesn’t take sides in any conflict and remained (or at least claimed to be) neutral during both world wars. Well, it turns out that the “conflict” in Judea and Samaria can tilt even the most neutral forces.

A few weeks ago, we sent a letter to the Swiss embassy in Israel after learning that the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) had funded a huge, illegal school on Israeli state lands near the village of Kisan in Gush Etzion. In the letter, we requested that the Swiss government desist from further participation in illegal construction or other Palestinian Authority attempts to unilaterally redraw the map of Area C.

The response: “Switzerland considers that the planning and zoning regime, as implemented by Israel in Area C, is not in conformity with international law. Switzerland also considers that the regime is implemented in a discriminatory manner, undermining prospects for a two-state solution.”

We’d like to remind the Swiss that all construction without planning permission from the Civil Administration is illegal. It violates both the military orders and civil laws in force in this territory, as well as international law and the principle of non-intervention, a foundational element of the United Nations charter.

The biggest absurdity in the letter came in the next line: “We welcome the recent commitment of the Israeli authorities to grant more building permits for Palestinians in Area C.”

Perhaps then you should decide: do you recognize Israeli jurisdiction in Area C or not? The truth is, the question should really be aimed at the Israeli government.

Over many years, Regavim has been sounding the alarm about undisturbed, immoral, and unlawful European activity in Judea and Samaria. We call on the Israeli government to awaken from its slumber, stand up for its rights, and begin to fight the #BattleforAreaC.

In November, we posted about dozens of staffing allocations for Civil Administration inspectors supposed to fight the #BattleforAreaC that have been reassigned to other CA tasks. So even in cases where private Jewish lands are seized by Arabs, the authorities are busy with other things. And what about the rule of law? Forget about it.

In 1979, Moshe Zar, a prominent land dealer in Judea and Samaria, began to purchase lands through a Jordanian company that he founded (because of the law that prevents individual Jews from buying land in Judea and Samaria). For around three years, he used his hard-earned savings to buy thousands of dunams.

In the last few months, our field coordinator, along with the Samaria Regional Council’s Land Division, was shocked to discover an extensive invasion of Moshe Zar’s lands. Every month, the illegal construction projects are gaining ground – quite literally – under the unwatchful eyes of the Israeli authorities.

In order to protect Zar’s property rights, we sent an urgent letter to the Civil Administration in which we demanded quick and critical enforcement action against the illegal construction.

This is the response we received: “Enforcement and supervision will be taken in accordance with procedures, and the implementation of enforcement will be determined in line with established enforcement priorities and subject to operational considerations.” However, up until this very day, no enforcement has been carried out, no equipment or vehicles have been confiscated, and the construction projects have only expanded.

Illegal structures in the Adumim region (E1)

This morning (Monday), the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus held a hearing focusing on the battle for Judea and Samaria.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of the Regavim Movement, shared updated data upon which Regavim based its recently-released precise map of Area C. The satellite mapping project revealed the alarming situation on the ground: From 2019 -2021, the Palestinians built 5097 new illegal structures in areas under full Israeli jurisdiction, an average of 7 new illegal structures per day. These new structures joined the already-staggering tally of illegal construction, for a total of 72,274 illegal structures in Area C.

On a parallel track, during the same two-year period the Palestinian Authority used agricultural projects to seize control of 7,125 dunams of Israeli state land, for a total of 93,071 dunams (93,071,000 square meters or 23,268 acres).

By planting hundreds of thousands of trees in the undeveloped open spaces of Area C, creating agricultural roads spanning dozens of kilometers each year, digging wells, cisterns and water delivery and irrigation systems, the Palestinian continues to exploit a loophole in Ottoman Land Law, still in force in Judea and Samaria, to wrest land rights from the State of Israel and establish de facto Palestinian control.

While the newly-released data indicate a slight reduction in the rate of illegal Palestinian construction compared to the previous two-year period, when 7,957 illegal structures were built (an average of 11 per day), the rate of agricultural land-grabs has remained virtually unchanged.

Regavim explained the lower rate of construction coupled with a steady rate of agricultural annexation as the result of the European Union’s decision to shift its funding away from illegal construction in order to focus on two alternative tracks: “lawfare” to prevent enforcement against new and existing illegal structures, and agricultural projects that achieve much greater territorial gains with far smaller financial investment.

“The Palestinian Authority is drawing the lines of the State of Palestine and presenting Israel with immutable facts on the ground. This is a strategic challenge of the first order, and one that Israel’s governments have done virtually nothing to address. It is a policy failure of a magnitude not seen since the Yom Kippur War,” said Deutsch.

Enforcement in Judea and Samaria

We got our hands on the information that we worked so hard to receive, finally. The news is upsetting, but it’s important for everyone to know. Israel’s Ministry of Defense has admitted that it has two different levels of enforcement in Judea and Samaria: one for Jews, and one for Arabs. We’ll let you guess where the enforcement is more heavy-handed.

For many months, we’ve been awaiting answers from the Ministry of Defense about the enforcement guidelines that are exercised in Judea and Samaria. Thanks to the petition that we filed, the Ministry was forced to admit that it’s not exactly ‘neutral’. Illegal Arab structures – in; illegal Jewish structures – out.

There’s no equality here, just plain racism. “Israeli construction that invades private land” is at the top of the enforcement priorities list, while “Arab construction that invades private land” is at the bottom of the list.

There are 60,000 illegal Arab structures in Judea and Samaria. 60,000! The law can and should be implemented against them, yet the Ministry of Defense allows the law enforcement bodies to turn a blind eye.

We demand that the Ministry of Defense assembles one list with all its enforcement priorities – to allow for equal, transparent, and fair management of its policies.

A few months ago, we posted about the Arab invasion of Israeli lands between the Binyamin region and the Jordan Valley, next to the village of Duma. Near the Alon Road, Duma residents began a mass takeover of Israeli state lands: illegal structures, roads, fences, etc.

The illegal structures were built a significant distance from the village. The Palestinian Authority’s tactic is simple; we’ve noticed the same pattern time and again: they identify a strategic point far away from an already-existing population center, seize the entire territory, find another location farther away, build, and so on.

We approached the authorities a number of times about this issue, and applied pressure for the law to be enforced. Soon after, this week, the enforcement authorities restored the area to its original state and tore down the illegal structures.

This is an example of what we do on a daily basis. It starts with a presence on the ground, as our field coordinators throughout the country monitor and document illegal land grabs. We then alert the authorities and apply legal pressure to uphold the law.

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Illegal construction on IDF Training Ground 918

A new Regavim petition to the High Court of Justice has exposed an illegal internal protocol created by the Civil Administration, an arm of the Ministry of Defense. The very people in charge of enforcement are aiding and encouraging illegal construction!

Let’s say theres an illegal structure built by an Arab in Area C, which is under Israeli jurisdiction. The construction offender receives a demolition order. But instead of actually demolishing the illegal structure, the State of Israel, via the Civil Administration, allows the criminal to launch a bureaucratic cat-and-mouse game. 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. As crazy as that sounds, it’s standard procedure.

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 it’s course, the structure is considered “old construction” – which doesn’t interest anyone, certainly not the Civil Administration’s enforcement officers.

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.

Watch this video, and see how the Civil Administration has stacked the deck and undermined the law.

We pressed, we demanded, we didn’t give up – and the dangerous structure at Yakir junction was torn down!

At the beginning of August, we noticed Arab residents of Judea and Samaria building a structure near the Yakir junction, without the necessary permits. Over the years, shops were built illegally, one after another, next to the main road, leading to traffic accidents going in and out of the junction.

Thanks to Regavim’s intensive pressure on the authorities and the local councils, Civil Administration inspectors came to knock down the structure this week.

This is a chance to commend the Civil Administration for their efforts. However, it’s worth remembering that had enforcement steps been taken on time, the structure wouldn’t have been built in the first place.

We hope that enforcement will be even more effective and swift in the future.

A screenshot of the Kisan village’s Facebook page that notes Swiss involvement in the construction of an illegal school

In early September, there was a special celebration in the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion in honor of the opening of a new school. But, as we told you before, the school was built without permits by the Palestinian Authority.

The construction period was short, and lasted just over a year. As soon as construction started, we sent urgent letters to the Civil Administration and the other Israeli authorities to stop yet another land grab. But that didn’t help. So we went to the Jerusalem District Court, although our petition was rejected because of the State’s promise in the court hearing to enforce the law at site.

But, of course, the law wasn’t enforced, and the school began to function in September 2020. Immediately, we petitioned the Court (again) to request an interim order that would prevent the opening of the school, but the Court didn’t comply with our request. And now, a year later, the illegal school in Kisan celebrates the Israeli authorities’ failure.

And it’s important to mention a line published on the village’s Facebook page: “It’s worth noting that the Kisan school project was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)”. That’s right, the famously ‘neutral’ Switzerland, that claims not to take any side in any conflict, is defying Israeli law, the European Union charter, and international law. The Swiss government is aiding the Palestinian Authority’s plan to establish a de-facto state in a territory that belongs to Israel according to international agreements.

For years, we’ve been protesting against the gross intervention of European governments in Area C. And for years, the State of Israel has decided to shut its eyes and ears as it squanders state lands. This is a major disgrace – in every sense.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty