Following our petition, Civil Administration forces tore down an illegal Palestinian school, built in the Herodion Nature Reserve and Heritage Site in Gush Etzion.
63 days after the Jerusalem District Court ordered to seal off and demolish the illegal structure, and despite UN efforts to delay law enforcement, the school was taken down.
This school is only one out of more than 100 illegal school buildings that were built in Judea and Samaria, as part of the Palestinian Authority’s plan to take over Area C and the open spaces.
Yesterday morning’s enforcement is the first step in restoring law and order to the area, and it is certainly not the last: now, we need to restore the site and deal with the hundreds of similar cases of illegal takeovers of lands and nature reserves in this area and beyond.
“Have any of you ever been to the quarry?” – that’s what the judge asked the State representatives in last week’s District Court hearing in the case of the Beit Fajjar quarry.
The Beit Fajjar quarry, located in east Gush Etzion and mainly in Area C, is the largest illegal quarry in the country, spreading over about 1,600 acres.
In the last decade, Regavim has filed two petitions against the illegal quarrying – which, besides taking over huge swaths of land, causes major damage to archaeological sites.
In last week’s hearing, the State rejected the claims that there is ongoing damage to archeology, and claimed that quarry has not expanded significantly since 2005. Regavim’s lawyers presented findings that prove the opposite, causing the judge to wonder why the State authorities are unaware of the current reality. The judge demanded that up-to-date evaluations be carried out and an answer submitted to the courts within 60 days.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation on the ground, as part of the battle to preserve Israel’s land resources.
In a hearing of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on the repeal of the Disengagement Law, Avraham Binyamin last week, Director of Regavim’s Policy Division, presented documentation of massive illegal Palestinian construction in northern Samaria in general, and particularly on the ruins of the Ganim, Kadim and Sa-Noor communities that were de-populated as part of the 2005 disengagement plan. The aerial photographs presented to the Committee show thousands of illegal Arab structures in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction – hundreds of them built only in the past year.
Far worse than the staggering quantity of this illegal construction is its strategic quality: These illegal structures create a land bridge between blocs of Palestinian Authority-controlled Area B settlements, undermining the Oslo framework that left the question of territorial contiguity under Palestinian Authority control for a negotiated resolution.
“The 2005 Disengagement Law is one more element abetting the creation of a terrorist state in the heart of the Land of Israel,” said Binyamin, who presented aerial photos of large-scale illegal construction in the region. “The land on which the de-populated Jewish communities of northern Shomron once stood – Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Noor – have been overtaken by illegal Arab construction, despite the fact that the IDF ostensibly retains control of the territory.”
“By emptying the northern Shomron communities of their Jewish residents, the Disengagement Law opened the door for Palestinian Authority annexation of the territory which the Civil Administration has done absolutely nothing to prevent,” he added.
Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, released a statement following the Knesset hearing: “Nearly a century ago, Joseph Trumpeldor summarized an essential truth of the Zionist ethos that is no less relevant today than it was in the pre-State era: “The place where the last row is plowed will be the border of our country.” Land on which there is no Jewish presence will be lost. Settlement and security are not only related, they are inseparable.”
“The false prophecies of the architects of the “disengagement,” who claimed that ceding territory would enhance Israel’s security, continue to blow up in our faces. Precisely because there is no longer a Jewish presence on the ground, there is no security. The borders of the State of Israel are being re-drawn by the Palestinian Authority – without negotiation, without compromise, in ways that threaten the security of the entire State of Israel. It is long past time to reverse this disastrous policy.”
For the ninth time: the State of Israel asks the High Court to allow another postponement of its response to Regavim’s petition for the evacuation of the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost, Khan al Ahmar. Regavim: “A right-wing government is tested by deeds, not by words.”
The extension granted to the state four months ago to respond to Regavim Movement petition to relocate the Bedouin squatters of Khan al Ahmar ended today, and the state has requested an additional four-month extension to present its position.
“The political echelon remains steadfast in its position that the rule of law requires the demolition orders to be carried out in the Khan al Ahmar compound,” according to the state’s request, adding that in the weeks since the formation of the present government, the new head of the National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegavi, has been working in cooperation with the National Security Advisor, representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the IDF, the General Security Service (Shin Bet), the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice, and other government representatives.
“The details of this intensive effort speak to the complexity, sensitivity and importance that state officials attach to compliance with the conditional orders already issued in this matter, as well as the fact that the issue is a high priority… On the other hand, given the complexity of the issue and its sensitivity, the high level of interest in the international community and the and implications for the foreign relations and security of the State of Israel at the present time, those charged with handling this case at the professional level have been instructed to complete all necessary steps required to formulate an appropriate response to the conditional order as soon as possible. The formulation of a detailed response on such a sensitive and complicated issue justifies the position of the political echelon that an additional stay be granted to enable the professionals to complete their work and to submit a comprehensive analysis to the political echelon.”
The Regavim Movement issued a strongly-worded statement criticizing the postponement request. “We were hoping for an appropriate response by a national right-wing government – as promised in the election campaign,” said Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “There is no justification for this. Like Cato in ancient Rome, we continue to repeat the same demand, to hold the same consistent position, to call upon our representatives in the government to act immediately to evacuate this illegal encampment – as well as dozens of other Palestinian Authority outposts created in the same mold – not 300 meters away from its present location, but to the neighborhood prepared precisely for this purpose near Abu Dis.”
Regavim responded to the state’s request for postponement by calling on the High Court to issue a final order, as it intimated it would when it granted the previous postponement, and put an end to the saga once and for all. “This is an extreme case of ‘lack of reasonableness’,” added Deutsch. “After all is said and done, this case will prove whether the High Court applies the same standard of reasonableness to cases from both sides of the political divide, or whether the reasonableness standard is nothing more than a judicial fig leaf for a particular agenda. We await a final judgement for the relocation of the Khan al Ahmar outpost in a manner that is consistent with Israel’s national interests.”
This evening (Tuesday) the High Court of Justice rejected a “Peace Now” petition arguing that Israel’s land allocation policy in Judea and Samaria is discriminatory and demanding that territory be granted to Palestinians in Efrat. Regavim: “As far as the left-wing organizations are concerned, no tactic is off limits when it comes to harming the State of Israel.“
A panel of Supreme Court judges led by Chief Justice Esther Hayut today rejected a petition filed by Peace Now on behalf of Arab residents of Bethlehem, claiming discrimination in Israel’s land allocation policy. In an earlier stage of the case, Israeli authorities proposed that the Palestinians submit a request for allocation of a 51 dunam plot in the area designated for Efrat’s newest neighborhood; representatives of Peace Now rejected the proposal, claiming that it is “not even a Band-Aid on the systemic discrimination.”
The current petition, submitted on behalf of 13 Arab residents of Bethlehem, demanded that the state allocate land in the area of a future neighborhood of the Jewish community of Efrat, the Eitam Hill. The petition made a precedent-setting argument against Israel’s land allocation policy in general, claiming that there should be parity between land allocations for Jewish and Arab use in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.
The petition followed a long and winding legal battle, with roots dating back some 30 years to the establishment of Efrat on state land in Gush Etzion. “This petition represents a new tactic: In addition to the back-door methods of Palestinian annexation – illegal construction and agricultural landgrabs – Peace Now is trying to open the front door for the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C through Israel’s High Court,” explained Avraham Binyamin, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at Regavim. “The petition argues that the state discriminates against the Palestinians in the way it allocates land – but completely ignores the reality on the ground, in which the Palestinian Authority already controls nearly half of Judea and Samaria, and has vast available land reserves to which Jewish residents have no access.”
Binyamin added: “Far-left organizations will stop at nothing in their attempts to torpedo the growth of Jewish communities on the one hand, and promote the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria for a Palestinian state, on the other hand. As far as they are concerned, any and all means, including causing harm to vital Israeli interests and causing harm to Israel’s reputation and integrity, are acceptable.”
The High Court rejected the claim of discrimination, noting that the state had, in fact, opened the door to Palestinian requests for land allocations.
Attorney Boaz Arzi of Regavim’s Legal Division noted that although the High Court rejected this petition, the state took its first step on a slippery slope by declaring that it will, under certain circumstances, agree to allocate land in Area C to Arab petitioners. “There is absolutely no justification for giving land away, for ceding control of vital state assets to the Palestinian Authority’s control, when there is more than enough land available in Areas A and B to provide for the needs of the Arab population. The land involved in this petition has been part of the municipal property of Efrat for years; the Arabs have been trying to lay their hands on it by every means possible – through illegal construction, through agricultural land-grabs, and now, through the Israeli courts.”
“The Peace Now campaign against the establishment of the Eitam neighborhood has been going on for decades,” noted Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “From the start, it has been riddled with distortions, half-truths and outright lies. We can only hope that the High Court’s rejection of this most recent attempt will put an end to the saga, and will clear the smokescreen that is used by the anti-Israel left to delegitimize Jewish community-building in Judea and Samaria and to defame the State of Israel.”
The High Court of Justice rejected the Regavim Movement’s petition to repeal Jordanian Law #40 which prohibits the sale of property in Judea and Samaria to Jews, on the grounds that “there is no call for intervening in matters of state”: “Despite the difficulty we have in coming to terms with the language of the law, there is no justification for this Court to intervene.” Regavim: “The High Court is enabling appalling discrimination. This is the first test of the new government’s mettle.”
Yesterday (Wednesday), the High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by the Regavim Movement to compel the military commander and the Civil Administration to repeal Jordanian Law #40 which prohibits the sale of land in Judea and Samaria to Jews – a law still in force due to Israel’s decision not to extend its law or sovereignty to territory liberated in 1967.
In the High Court hearing earlier this week, Regavim’s attorney, Boaz Arzi, argued that this patently racist law should be struck down without further delay. In an earlier stage of the case, the High Court issued a conditional order requiring the government to respond within 60 days and explain why this discriminatory law should be allowed to stand. The attorney representing the Civil Administration argued that no real harm is caused by Jordanian Law #40 to Jews who wish to carry out real estate transactions in Judea and Samaria: the state’s work-around solution allowing would-be buyers to incorporate as a legal entity in Judea and Samaria in order to circumvent the antisemitic restriction against individuals, they argued, was sufficient. Regavim’s attorney responded: “Focusing on the quantity of transactions obscures the real issue. This is racism.”
The government’s representatives also argued that a committee, headed by the Assistant Minister of Defense, had examined the issue and determined that the restriction is “minor” while the level of political sensitivity regarding land in Judea and Samaria is immense. Therefore, the state argued, there is no justification for the Court to intervene in decisions taken by the military commander. Justice Groskopf noted, “The law is racist; that is clear. However, the cost outweighs the benefit. Essentially, the question is whether the considerations of the military commander in this matter are reasonable or unreasonable to the extent that the intervention of the Court is necessary.” The panel of three Justices accepted the State’s argument and rejected Regavim’s petition.
Jordanian Law #40 prohibiting the sale of property to non-Muslims was passed in the 1950s, during the illegal Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria following the War of Independence. Although the occupation came to an end in 1967, Israel refrained from extending sovereignty to the territories it had liberated, holding them in a “temporary” state of limbo in order to negotiate a political resolution to the conflict. Ever since, land purchases for Jewish settlement and development has been carried out through a bureaucratic-legal process designed to circumvent, but not annul, the anti-Jewish Jordanian law. In 1971, the IDF Chief of Central Command issued an order permitting commercial entities to purchase land in the area; individual Jews are barred from purchasing land to this very day. Regavim argued that the technical difficulties created by this “work around” are significant – and are nonetheless overshadowed by the inherent racism underlying the law itself, and the violation of Jews’ basic rights.
“This is an outrage,” says Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “For the first time, the High Court of Justice is upholding and permitting continued racial discrimination, hiding behind supposed diplomatic repercussions. No such discrimination against Arabs would be allowed, even if the government argued that there would be certain political or diplomatic fallout.” Deutsch added, “Can you imagine if the US Supreme Court had argued that because public transportation was readily accessible for black people, the cost of allowing them to use the front of the bus outweighed the benefit that would be achieved by judicial intervention?! If the Justices of Israel’s Supreme Court had been on the bench in the US, Rosa Parks and all those who came after her would probably still be on the back of the bus, and racial discrimination would still be the law of the land.”
“Law is an expression of a society’s values,” said Attorney Boaz Arzi. “Are these the values that we expect our justice system to uphold? We call upon the newly-elected government to reassert Jewish rights and the foundational principle of equality under the law that are the bedrock of the modern Jewish and democratic State of Israel.”
There seems to be no limit to the hypocrisy and double-talk to which Israeli voters are being exposed in this election season.
This week’s installment of double-speak came from no lesser a luminary than Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, who is quickly proving himself to be a master of the genre. Speaking from the podium of the Knesset plenum, Minister Gantz, who has held this position for three years under as many Prime Ministers, is the man responsible for waging and winning Israel’s Battle for Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction under international law.
In the three years of Gantz’s tenure, Israel’s activities in Area C, which require resolute action to uphold the stated policy of the Israeli government, have degenerated to the point of being virtually non-existent. Rather than confronting the relentless takeover of the territory by the Palestinian Authority with a show of force, under Gantz’s command, protection of Israel’s vital interests in the region has become a show and a farce.
At last count, over 100,000 dunams of Israeli state land in Area C have been overtaken by hostile concerns as the Israeli government purposefully ignores what is happening right under our noses. Through a clearly-stated program of illegal construction and agricultural projects, the Palestinian Authority has accelerated the already-staggering pace at which it is creating a de facto State of Palestine in area C of Judea and Samaria.
Analysis of aerial photography indicates that as of December 2021 Palestinians had built 70,000 illegal structures in Area C – averaging 7 new illegal structures every day, day in and day out. According to United Nations data, which are notoriously skewed against Israel, the sum total of all demolitions carried out by Israel’s Civil Administration in Area C in the past 13 years (1 August 2009 – 1 August 2022) is 6,802. Of this paltry 10% of illegal structures, the vast majority were insignificant agricultural or commercial structures, amounting to “cosmetic” demolitions.
Nonetheless, earlier this week our Minister of Defense stood at the Knesset podium and delivered a classic electioneering speech, touting his dedication to law and order and even-handed enforcement. Without batting an eyelash, Gantz drew a specious parallel between illegal construction in the Jewish and Arab sectors in Area C – an equivalence so far-fetched as to be akin to a blood libel.
Illegal Palestinian-sector construction in Area C – planned, funded and carried out by hostile foreign concerns with the expressed intention of ridding all of Judea and Samaria of any Jewish presence, as per the precedent set by the Jordanians during their illegal 19-year occupation – bears no resemblance to construction violations committed by Jews in Area C. Any and every parameter of comparison illustrates the absurdity of Gantz’s statement: The extent of illegal construction in each sector, the rationale and impetus for that construction, and most particularly the wildly divergent rates of enforcement against illegal construction, leave no room for any comparison.
Never has such cynical sloganeering so abused the concept of equal and universal law enforcement. Never before have the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria been subjected to such outrageous, slanderous and unfounded comparisons with those who seek our eradication. Never in Israel’s history has a Minister of Defense had so poor a grasp of the importance of controlling strategic ground. Benny Gantz’s double-speak in the Knesset was an apt reflection of his “policy” as Minister of Defense: pathetic, infuriating – and dangerous.
In recent months, we’ve documented the illegal construction of a Palestinian water park in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.
The complex, which opened this summer, is located just 200 meters away from a major road in the heart of Area C, and has a large lawn, pools and facilities, including a massive parking lot where hundreds of people arrive every week to enjoy the attractions that were built without permits or supervision.
Palestinians have also built two event halls, also adjacent to critical roads, in Gush Etzion. These include magnificent gardens, pools, food trucks, playgrounds, soccer fields, volleyball courts, all built illegally on Israeli state lands.
Both halls were built in areas declared non-construction zones by the military, with the hall in eastern Gush Etzion next to a road where tens of thousands of Israeli vehicles pass by every day and is a known stone-throwing spot. The building works also damaged Jewish archaeological sites.
The Civil Administration has said that it’s aware of these illegal structures and issued stop-work orders. However, the two event halls remain standing, the criminals have not been brought to justice, and Israel continues to squander its precious land resources.
In a renewed petition submitted to the High Court of Justice, the Regavim Movement calls for changes in Civil Administration procedures that automatically freeze enforcement against thousands of illegal structures in Area C. Regavim: “This procedural distortion encourages illegal construction, entrenches and enables the Palestinian takeover of Area C.”
In 2021, a Regavim petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) challenged Civil Administration and Ministry of Defense operational guidelines, in force for years, that actively violate the Planning and Construction Law. The implementation of these guidelines has created a protective shield for illegal structures by granting indefinite suspension of enforcement procedures against thousands of illegal Arab-built structures, entrenching their status and permanence and encouraging a surge of new illegal Arab construction.
The operational guidelines grant automatic, open-ended suspension of enforcement procedures against illegal construction in Judea and Samaria from the moment statutory appeals are submitted for any illegally-built structure – including requests for TABA (municipal masterplan), requests for a waiver of building permit requirements, appeals against demolition orders, requests to freeze enforcement procedures, appeals to the High Court of Justice – even when it is clear from the outset that these motions are totally without basis and will not be upheld due to insurmountable flaws in design, engineering, location, land ownership or other objective facts. By simply submitting unfounded or even absurd requests or applications, illegal structures enjoy an umbrella of protection, as enforcement is automatically frozen – indefinitely.
Regavim’s 2021 petition was dismissed when the State claimed that it had revised the problematic procedural guidelines – but Regavim’s petition argues that the changes instituted by the Civil Administration involve a minor procedural sub-paragraph that has no substantive impact on the operational guidelines or their problematic results. Regavim has now submitted a second petition, arguing that although the correction limits the blanket enforcement freeze to a certain degree, the procedural guidelines continue to uphold illegal practices and grant offenders protection from enforcement.
“The Civil Administration, which is responsible for enforcing the law in Judea and Samaria, has inexplicably expanded a loophole in the Jordanian law that is in force in this area, enabling illegal construction on a massive scale,” says Attorney Boaz Arzi of Regavim’s Legal Division. “There are currently some 80,000 illegal Palestinian structures in Area C of Judea and Samaria, the area ostensibly under Israeli civil and security jurisdiction. Every day, an average of 8 new structures is added to this incomprehensible number, alongside the massive territorial takeover through agricultural and roadwork projects – all of which are planned and carried out by the Palestinian Authority with the support of foreign concerns.” Arzi adds: “This absurdity must be stopped – immediately. There’s a battle raging on the ground for control of Area C, and the Civil Administration’s illegal procedural protocols are aiding and abetting the Palestinian Authority’s takeover.”
In recent weeks, we’ve noticed a delegation of senior Canadian military personnel that has been patrolling in uniform in Area C, including at an illegal structure in the South Hebron Hills region.
The delegation was also hosted by the IDF’s Central Command General Yehuda Fuchs, meaning that its presence in the area is known to and sanctioned by IDF officials.
The illegal structure that the Canadians visited was erected overnight on land designated for agriculture and belongs to the nearby Israeli community of Maon. Residents of Maon appealed to the IDF and the Civil Administration to stop the work and demolish the building. Apparently, the Civil Administration has pledged to enforce the law but has done nothing so far.
Shortly after the referral to the Civil Administration, the visit of the Canadian delegation, which included two uniformed military personnel, was documented.
The delegation was also documented during a visit to the village of Zurif near the community of Carmi Tzur in Gush Etzion, and this week they were seen again in a meeting with Arabs near the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion, also in Area C.
It’s an utterly insane and blatantly rude move against the State of Israel for senior military figures from a foreign country to encourage construction criminals who are acting under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.
As long as the State of Israel sees itself as a guest in Judea and Samaria and does not conduct itself as the sovereign, the rest of the world will also see the State of Israel as a guest and not as the legitimate sovereign.
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