The illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

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.”

Interview: Regavim’s Naomi Kahn speaks to Kan English Radio about Khan al Ahmar postponement
Israeli town of Efrat, a six-minute drive from Jerusalem, and the hill upon which a new neighborhood, Givat Eitam, is to be built.

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.”

Regavim’s video from May 2022 that explains Law 40

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.

Regavim’s diagram that demonstrates the illegal Palestinian construction in Area C
An extravagant event hall built illegally, documented by Regavim

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.

The Palestinians are enjoying themselves at our expense; this is another tactic in the Palestinian Authority’s plan to take over Area C.

An aerial photo of a water park built illegally by Palestinian Arabs

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.

An illegal event hall in Gush Etzion, part of the Palestinian takeover of Area C
Illegal Arab construction in Area C

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.”

A senior Canadian military officer seen visiting an illegal Palestinian structure

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.

A truck offloads trash at the abandoned quarry near Psagot

After a seemingly endless stream of correspondence and complaints by Regavim, the Civil Administration cleared an illegal garbage dump in the Binyamin region. But the Regavim Movement discovered that the dumping site was cleared and rehabilitated at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer, and not a single one of the criminals arrested for dumping the trash were charged or tried – even when they resumed dumping at the very same spot only weeks later. Regavim has petitioned the High Court of Justice.

In 2019, Regavim’s field staff noticed that criminals had taken over the open space near the Psagot Junction in the Binyamin region of Area C (the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction), and used it to dump and burn massive quantities of trash. With no oversight, inspection or permits and in complete disregard of the most basic criteria for waste disposal and environmental protection, this illegal dumping ground was causing unspeakable, irreparable damage to the soil and water, and creating a health hazard to plant, animal and human life in the vicinity that was affecting all residents of the area – Jews and Arabs alike.

Regavim complained to the authorities – repeatedly – and demanded oversight and enforcement at the site, restoration of the environment and prosecution of those responsible for this criminal abuse. The authorities eventually announced that they had apprehended and impounded several dump trucks that were unloading trash – meaning that the identity of the offenders was known and duly recorded. At the end of 2021, the Civil Administration, which is responsible for law enforcement in Area C, announced that it had completed clean-up and restoration of the site – at a cost of NIS 370,098. The project was funded from the Civil Administration’s budget, while the official announcement also noted that “the Civil Administration has no information regarding the identity of the perpetrators.”

Surprisingly – or not – only a few short weeks later, in February 2022, dump trucks were back at work, unloading tons of garbage at the very same site and rebuilding the massive mountain of trash.

Regavim decided to take the matter to the High Court of Justice. The petition they submitted claimed that the Civil Administration’s conduct in this matter violates both the law and the most basic standards of good governance, and that it is unreasonable to force the law-abiding public to bear costs of hundreds of thousands of Shekels to remove the trash while the offenders, whose identity is no secret, have not been charged or tried for this crime – and are given a free hand to continue to violate the ecosystem and the law, causing irreparable harm to the environment.

Attorney Yael Cinnamon, who is representing Regavim in this petition, noted: “The Civil Administration’s policy of negligence that allows criminals to commit offenses with impunity, without being required to pay the price for their crimes or for the damage they have caused, has taken root, and criminals have learned to take full advantage of the law enforcement void and the Civil Administration’s reticence in order to expand their dangerous and illegal activities. The re-activation of the illegal dump in Binyamin, which was cleared and restored only a few months ago, is a case in point.”

Moshe Shmueli, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, added: “We are engaged in a protracted battle against the illegal dumping site near Psagot. When we finally managed to force the Civil Administration to shut down the dump and do what had to be done to rehabilitate the surrounding environment, we were shocked to discover that the costs were funded by the public. Even worse, it took almost no time at all for the dumping to resume. This is not the only illegal dumping site in the area, either. The criminals know how to use the chaos and inaction of the authorities to their advantage, just as they do with the lack of enforcement against illegal construction.”

Yisrael Gantz, Head of the Binyamin Regional Council: “The failure to enforce the law is strangling the environment. Sadly, there is no deterrence against Arab criminals or the Palestinian Authority. When there is no serious enforcement, there is a free for all, and it takes a toll on our health. Enforcement is currently only a drop in the ocean – it’s nowhere near enough to stop the rampant criminality.”

“The fact that the hard-earned tax money of the municipalities and citizens of Judea and Samaria is collected by the Civil Administration and used to tend to illegal Arab dumping sites, rather than to develop infrastructure and environmental projects for local communities, is nothing short of scandalous.”

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.