Regavim petitions High Court of Justice: Apply the enforcement tools legislated in 2018 against new Palestinian Authority de facto annexation in Gush Etzion region of Area C.

Following the Regavim Movement’s urgent requests to the Ministry of Defense to halt further progress on an illegal road being paved by the Palestinian Authority in a strategic area of Gush Etzion, Regavim filed a petition in the High Court of Justice this morning (Wednesday). The road, which connects the Area B villages of Battir and Husan, will effectively strangle the Jewish community of Har Gilo.

Last week, the Regavim Movement submitted a second urgent alert to Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and to the Civil Administration, demanding immediate enforcement action against a strategic Palestinian Authority project in Gush Etzion – a road connecting the Palestinian villages Battir and Husan.

The road skirts the Jewish community of Har Gilo, spanning the Heletz Valley, and connects the illegal “northern extension” of Battir to the village of Husan, both of which are designated as Area B (under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction).

Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, who documented the ongoing roadwork, explains that the land on which the Palestinian Authority is laying the road is of particular strategic importance: “This,” he says, “constitutes the corridor connecting Gush Etzion to Jerusalem, and is a vital strategic asset for Israeli control of the area. The illegal road, and the further expansion of the Palestinian villages that it will eventually facilitate, will turn territory under full Israeli jurisdiction into an isolated enclave surrounded by territory under de facto Palestinian Authority control.”

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman stressed that this incident illustrates the Palestinian Authority’s systematic method of achieving territorial contiguity: “The Batir road is one more attempt to dismantle Israeli sovereignty. The road work must be stopped – yesterday! – and we must prevent the creation of a Palestinian state right under our noses. Protection of Israeli state land and law enforcement against illegal construction, land-grabs and encroachment on our national resources must be at the very top of the list of priorities of every Israeli official.”

Regavim issued two separate alerts in recent days calling for a criminal investigation against the perpetrators who are carrying out the work, and full disclosure of any and all enforcement activity that has been carried out. In light of the urgency of the matter and the pace at which the work on the road is progressing, and after no response was received and no enforcement activity was carried out, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the Ministry of Defense to apply the relatively new legislation, passed in 2018 and approved by the High Court in recent rulings, that empowers the demolition of new structures.

Illegal junkyard on IDF Training Ground cleared

Recently, we exposed, along with journalist Lia Spilkin that a huge number of old Egged buses were sold to an illegal junkyard. Since the operation of the junkyard was carried out without supervision, ignoring all regulations and requirements, the environmental damage was huge, and old vehicle parts found their way onto the black market.

Egged claimed that it’s not responsible for what happens in junkyards that it doesn’t own. Even if the purchase of old buses is made by a criminal, and despite the environmental damage, Egged isn’t interested. When we asked for information about the buyer, the bus company refused to comment.

Regavim approached the Civil Administration to demand enforcement action against the junkyard, located on IDF Training Ground 203 in the western Binyamin region. Civil Administration officials responded, as expected, that enforcement will take place “in accordance with established priorities”.

On this occasion, the public and media attention clearly had an effect: the Civil Administration evacuated the junkyard and confiscated the criminals’ work vehicles.

We plan to monitor the situation on the ground to make sure that the criminals don’t return to their damaging ways. All over the country, we shall continue our Zionist activities, fighting for the protection of Israel’s environment and land resources. If you want to be part of our important efforts, you’re invited to donate to Regavim.

The State of Israel enacted an effective enforcement order to fight the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria, but the Civil Administration has refrained from using it – despite the approval of the High Court of Justice. Now, the Regavim Movement and the Samaria Regional Council have submitted a High Court petition demanding that the legislation be applied against Palestinian invasion of an archaeological site in Samaria.

Over the past several months, Regavim has documented a persistent stream of incursion and annexation, as residents of Burkin, a village located in the area under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, have taken over a significant parcel of land in the Ariel Commercial Zone – located in Area C, under full Israeli jurisdiction.

The area that is being quietly annexed is adjacent to an archaeological site known as Khirbet Khurkosh, where a magnificent Hellenistic Era mausoleum was discovered, along with other remains dating from the Iron Age through the Middle Ages.

This gradual annexation began with road work, which was soon followed by land clearing and preparation for agricultural work. Mature olive trees were quickly planted, in an attempt to make the newly-cleared area look “old” – and now, a large structure, already connected to electricity infrastructure despite its considerable distance from the village, is nearing completion. This entire project is unfolding on “survey land,” Israeli state land for which full registration has not been completed.

The recently-filed High Court petition emphasizes that six different requests for enforcement were submitted to the relevant authorities at each of the stages of the annexation process, but the work continued, unhindered, and no discernable enforcement has been carried out.

For years, the Palestinian Authority and its partners in the European Union have exploited the Israeli bureaucratic and legal systems, successfully preventing law enforcement against illegal Palestinian annexation.

In 2018, the “Order for the Removal of New Illegal Structures” was enacted by the defense establishment and the State Attorney’s Office as part of the “Battle for Area C.” This legislation allows the demolition of new structures built without a permit within six months of construction. The order may be implemented within 96 hours of issuance of an eviction order.

The “Removal of New Structures” order is an effective enforcement tool that makes it possible to streamline the law enforcement process and make it more difficult for offenders to establish facts on the ground by abusing the judicial process.

After the “Removal of New Structures” order was enacted, left-wing organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to strike it down, but their petition was rejected and the High Court approved the order’s use. Nonetheless, to this day the state has made minimal use of this order, despite the fact that it has proven to be the most efficient and effective tool in the fight against illegal construction.

In the petition filed by Regavim Movement and the Samaria Regional Council, attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Cinnamon requested that the High Court order the authorities to apply the “Order for Removal of New Structures” against the ongoing invasion of Khirbet Khurkosh.

Samaria Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said: “The Security Cabinet announced its intention to battle the PA’s annexation of Area C, and the time has come for the enforcement authorities to act accordingly – to approach the problem in a systematic fashion and to act systematically. We must stop the Palestinian Authority’s rampage, and tell them, loudly and clearly, who’s the boss.”

The joint petition stresses that “this case illustrates the PA’s systematic, well-financed and carefully-planned takeover of Area C, which seeks to shift the focal point of Palestinian development from Area B to Area C. The Palestinian Authority is establishing facts on the ground in order to tie Israel’s hands – both in terms of current security considerations and in terms of political leverage in strategic points in Area C. These one-sided facts on the ground will impact the opening positions for future negotiations, and the State of Israel must address them right now.”

An illegal structure built on Israeli state lands at the archaeological site of Khirbet Khurkosh
The squatters’ highway in April 2021

The Squatters’ Highway: How the PA connects illegal encampments in Area C to the villages of Area B

The Palestinian Authority has blazed a new illegal trail through the Jordan Valley, connecting the towns of Taysir and Tubas in Area B to its network of illegal outposts in Area C. Regavim: “The Palestinian Authority continues to carry out its masterplan for territorial contiguity in the Jordan Valley, and the State of Israel continues to allow it.”

In recent months, the Palestinian Authority has invested massive human and financial resources to create a new illegal road connecting the large Arab villages of Taysir and Tubas in eastern Samaria with the network of illegal outposts near the Jewish communities of Ro’i and Beqaot and the IDF bases of the Jordan Valley.

The Regavim Movement has been tracking, documenting and warning the authorities about the project for many months: The PA began work on the illegal “squatters’ highway” in Area C as early as November last year. Initially, paving materials were deposited in neat piles all along the route; now, only a few short months later, they have been steamrolled into a solid and smooth surface to accommodate vehicular traffic.

Regavim alerted the Civil Administration and other relevant authorities in the early stages of the project, demanding decisive enforcement action against the illegal activity and those responsible for it. Nonetheless, the PA has managed to steamroll and surface the entire roadway without interference, and if the current pace of “law enforcement” continues, there is every reason to believe that the road will soon be fully paved with asphalt.

The squatters’ highway in November 2020

“We warned the Civil Administration and the authorities, and appealed to them to take swift, active steps to prevent further progress of the work on the road, designed to support the illegal structures already on the ground and to link the scattered outposts into a network and connect them to the central villages of Area B, but they did nothing,” said Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria.

“The Palestinian Authority is constantly working to create contiguity of Palestinian settlement; they aren’t standing around waiting for a Civil Administration inspector to show up and stop them. Either knowingly or unwittingly, the inaction of the enforcement authorities and the State of Israel is enabling the Palestinian Authority to achieve its vision of territorial contiguity and control in the Jordan Valley.”

Illegal school in the Jordan Valley, strategically placed by the European Union

Under the radar: Palestinian Authority builds a new illegal school in a Jordan Valley nature reserve

Over the past several weeks, the Palestinian Authority built a new illegal school at Hamam al Maliakh, in the Bazak Nature Reserve in the Jordan Valley. Regavim: “The PA builds, the EU funds, and the State of Israel ignores.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) built a new school in the site of the historic Hamam al Maliakh hot springs, located in the heart of the Jordan Valley’s Bazak Nature Reserve. The site is in Area C, under full Israeli jurisdiction.

Some years ago, an Arab family took over the site, turning the historic structure into a private residence and making structural changes as if it were their personal property.

Now, aside from the illegal invasion and damage to the site, insult has been added to injury: A new school has sprung up at the site in recent weeks, complete with signage announcing that the construction was funded by the European Union and group of European countries – all of which have been playing an increasingly significant role in the PA’s quiet takeover of Area C in recent years.

Without shame: European signage at the entrance

The new school is adorned with colorful wall murals – as well as tarpaulin sheets that are meant to hide the illegal structure from the eyes of Civil Administration inspectors.

Regavim turned to the Civil Administration, seeking answers: How is it possible that a school was built in the heart of an historic site located in a national nature reserve – and no one did a thing to stop it?

Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, explains: “The Palestinian Authority is playing hide and seek with the Civil Administration. The PA builds “confrontation schools” – illegal schools in Area C – for the purpose of anchoring a network of outposts in Area C. The Palestinians come up with new, inventive ways of camouflaging their activities, and the Civil Administration, either intentionally or unintentionally, continues to fall into the very effective trap that the PA is using over and over again: Once these illegal schools are completed, they create a win-win public relations headache which the Civil Administration hasn’t learned to contend with. The PA appears to be the only team on the playing field.”

The school covered in sheets to hide it from the Israeli authorities
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Illegal construction near Duma

The Palestinian Authority (PA) took advantage of the Passover holiday recess for large-scale illegal construction, including sites already under court-issued work-stop orders. Regavim: “This pattern repeats itself over each holiday, and the Israeli authorities continue to do nothing to prevent it.”

While Israelis enjoyed the week-long Passover holiday, the PA used the Civil Administration’s vacation to full advantage, carrying out lightning-paced construction at a number of strategically-placed sites in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.

One of the projects aimed at establishing facts on the ground during the inspectors’ vacation is on the outskirts of Rujeib, located between Shechem (Nablus) and the Jewish community of Itamar in Area C. Over the intermediate days of the Passover festival, new areas were leveled for construction and infrastructure was laid for an illegal construction project that broke ground in recent months.

In the vicinity of Duma, a village adjacent to the Alon Road in the eastern Binyamin section of Area C, three permanent structures were built over the holiday – part of an enormous illegal construction project that is doubling the size of the village.

At Khirbet Khurkosh, an archaeological site in central Samaria that has been subjected to large-scale invasion and destruction in recent months, a very large brick-and-mortar structure was built over Passover.

Under current Civil Administration operational guidelines, all field inspectors vacation for the duration of the Jewish high holidays in the fall and Passover in the spring. For a week or more, no oversight, inspection or enforcement activity is carried out in Judea and Samaria. The results have become depressingly predictable: an outbreak of illegal construction in Area C.

Illegal construction on the outskirts of Rujeib, between Nablus and Itamar

Several years ago, Regavim released a report titled “Festivals of Construction” (Hebrew) surveying this phenomenon. Among other recommendations, the report suggested that the Civil Administration hire Druse inspectors to carry out the necessary fieldwork on Jewish days of rest and festivals, paralleling the system used by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to enforce Israel’s days-of-rest laws and the Ministry of Interior’s system for enforcing Passover Chametz laws.

“These are the tip of the iceberg of the systematic annexation-via-construction program that is carried out on Jewish holidays, which have become festivals of illegal construction in the Arab sector throughout Israel, and particularly in Judea and Samaria,” says Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria. “The authorities know full well what will happen, but fail to take any preventative measures.”

Freedom of Information Petition: Who is providing electricity to illegal Palestinian construction?

The Regavim Movement has petitioned the Jerusalem District Court, after the Civil Administration refused to provide data on the extent of electricity connections apparently supplied by the East Jerusalem Electric Company, an Israeli subsidiary of the Israel Electric Company which is subject to Israeli law, for thousands of illegal Palestinian structures in Judea and Samaria.

Tens of thousands of illegal structures have been built in the last decade in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction. Most of these structures are connected to the electricity grid operated by the East Jerusalem Electric Company, an Israeli company supervised by the Public Services Authority. Other than the Israel Electric Company, the East Jerusalem Electric Company is the only company in Israel licensed to distribute electricity throughout the country.

To ascertain the extent of this phenomenon, Regavim submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Civil Administration last August. The request focused on electrical connections provided for illegal structures located a few meters from the entrance gate to Efrat in Gush Etzion. These structures, built illegally by Arabs with the encouragement and support of the Palestinian Authority, are connected to the East Jerusalem Electric Company network.

Regavim wanted to understand how the East Jerusalem Electric Company received permission to connect the illegal structures to the grid, and precisely how the electricity pillars were placed: Is there an approved masterplan for the area? Were these structures given permits, or perhaps granted permit exemptions which allowed for their connection to the grid?

The Civil Administration did not respond; after Regavim’s second request for information, the Civil Administration’s official response was that “staff members are working vigorously to formulate a response to this query;” although these structures had been hooked up to the electrical supply only a few months before the query was submitted, the Civil Administration explained that the structures in question are “old,” and that “in-depth examination of the archives is required.”

Months after this puzzling response, no substantive reply was received from the Civil Administration to the Freedom of Information request, so Regavim petitioned the court to compel the Civil Administration to provide satisfactory answers about this absurd situation.

“Aside from the safety hazards posed by unauthorized, unsupervised electrical connections, this situation lends permanence to the illegal structures,” says Yakhin Zik, Director of Operations at Regavim. “It is inconceivable that a company subject to Israeli law should provide unauthorized electrical connections to structures built illegally. It is inconceivable that while on the one hand the Israeli government has vowed to fight and win “the battle for Area C,” on the other hand it is allowing this phenomenon to entrench and reward the illegal construction that is the primary tool for the hostile Palestinian takeover of Area C.”

חיבורי חשמל
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As a result of our petition, a massive junkyard that was blighting the countryside and polluting the groundwater in the Binyamin region was cleared. Countless wrecks had been piling up for years at an illegal automotive scrapyard near Bir Zeit, polluting topsoil and groundwater with untreated effluents and automotive waste.

About eight months ago, we turned to the Civil Administration to demand the clearance of the illegal junkyard. But the Civil Administration tried to shirk their responsibilities, claiming that enforcement can’t be carried out at “junkyards on private lands”. This was a ridiculous claim and defies the law that explicitly gives the Civil Administration the authority to remove vehicle wrecks from “the public or private domain”. So we had to submit a petition to the Jerusalem District Court to give them a nudge.

And indeed, recently, the Civil Administration issued orders for the owner to clear all the vehicles and to restore the area within 30 days. In recent weeks, the owner removed hundreds, if not thousands, of the old cars and dismantled the illegal garage. We are hopeful that in the coming days and weeks the rest of the area will be cleared, and this environmental hazard will be lifted.

Automotive waste and untreated effluents that pollute the groundwater don’t distinguish between Jewish and Arab lands. Environmental abuse is not a right- or left-wing issue, and doesn’t stop at the Green Line. We shall continue to push for equal law enforcement throughout the Land of Israel, the protection of Israel’s land resources and the environment.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

This first appeared on our Facebook page

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If you were asked to name a country where there is still a law in force that prohibits Jews from buying property, you might be tempted to make an educated guess based on the dark history of Europe and the long tradition of expulsion and persecution that was facilitated by anti-Jewish legislation over centuries. Places like Germany, England and France might spring to mind; Spain and Portugal might be in the running as well.

You probably wouldn’t guess that today, in the year 2021, a law is enforced by the State of Israel that prohibits Jews from purchasing privately owned property — but that is the sad and shocking truth. Law 40, enacted in 1953 by the Jordanians during their illegal annexation of Judea and Samaria, prohibits the purchase of privately owned land by non-Arabs, as well as the sale of privately owned land to non-Arabs (in other words, Jews). Not only is Law 40 still “on the books,” but it is actively enforced to this very day by the State of Israel’s legislative, judicial and security branches.

In a very real and undeniable sense, this legislation is, quite simply, racist. It is blatantly anti-Semitic. It is regressive, and an affront to the concepts of personal liberty, equality and property rights upon which democracy is based. Laws of this kind would not be allowed to stand anywhere in the civilized world, and it is nothing short of outrageous that the Jewish state has allowed this discriminatory and regressive legislation to remain in force in a judicial system that champions individual rights.

How, then, have Jews purchased property over the past 53 years? In 1971, the Military Commander for Judea and Samaria issued a “work-around” directive, by changing the Jordanian law that pertains to corporate ownership, while leaving Law 40 untouched. Thus, companies registered in Judea and Samaria — even if they are owned by Jews — are now permitted to purchase property in Judea and Samaria. Rather than strike down Law 40, the Israeli government has left it in place and designed a method of circumventing it.

Why, you may well ask? Why should this be necessary? Simply put, the State of Israel has spent decades avoiding any action that might be construed as an act of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. It has bent itself into contorted legal positions in order to avoid fulfilling its most basic responsibilities to Israeli citizens and to the security of the State of Israel. It has procrastinated to the point of absurdity, creating a vacuum of governance and a black hole of law and order that continues to turn normal life — for Jewish and Palestinian residents of “Area C” alike — into a tangled bureaucratic nightmare.

The legal departments of both Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Civil Administration have recommended additional methods of circumventing or even amending Law 40. The Regavim Movement, on the other hand, has petitioned the High Court of Justice to strike down this racist legislation altogether, and to expunge this anti-Semitic vestige from the Israeli legal code. Striking down Law 40 is a statement of Israel’s commitment to equal and universal rights under the law — a statement that is long overdue.

An illegal, EU-funded, PA-built school in Nahal Machoch Nature Reserve on Israeli state land

Brigadier General Ghassan Alian, Commander of the IDF’s Civil Administration, said at a hearing in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Palestinian Authority (PA) employs hundreds of people to register real estate in Judea and Samaria – including in Area C, which is under full Israeli control, while the Civil Administration has only about 20 people dealing with this issue.

Alian’s shocking remarks were made in the context of this morning’s (November 23) Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee hearing, chaired by MK Gideon Saar. The hearing, initiated by MKs Uzi Dayan, Moshe Arbel, Yitzhak Pindros and Bezalel Smotrich, examined the renewal of land registration and regulation procedures in Judea and Samaria.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Zvi Hauser, who participated in the hearing, reacted sharply, “This is the what the State of Israel has to show for itself, although for years it has talked about the ‘battle for Area C’ but in practice only a few people are assigned to this issue – despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority has been in a race to seize control and register territory, and some 600 people are employed to do so.”

Meir Deutsch, Director General of the Regavim Movement, who participated in the hearing, says that the data provided by the Civil Administration reflect that the Israeli government’s operational, organizational and moral bankruptcy.

“Land regulation and registration is a complex process that is the responsibility of the sovereign. Aside from the fact that the Palestinian Authority is treating Area C as its own sovereign territory – and there has been no Israeli response to speak of – the shameful inaction of the Israeli government to carry out land registration in Judea and Samaria is a moral failure. In essence, the government is making a statement through this inaction that it is not the sovereign in the area,” Deutsch said.

In 2019, Regavim exposed an internal Civil Administration document that outlined illegal Palestinian Authority land registration activity in Area C of Judea and Samaria, the portion of Judea and Samaria placed under full Israeli jurisdiction under the Oslo Accords.

According to this Civil Administration report, Palestinian Authority land registry efforts date back to at least 2015, and includes ownership inspection procedures, registration of purported ownership of the land in its official land registry, and parcellation of territorial blocks and individual plots of land – including property within the municipal boundaries of Jewish communities.

A report released in June 2017 exposed that “this is a phenomenon spread over thousands of dunams” and that the process “is led by the Palestinian Ministry of Justice and in particular by the Palestinian Land Authority, under the management of Nadim al-Brahami, with funding provided by various European countries.”

This article appeared on JewishPress.com