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.”

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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

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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.”

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Illegal PA construction

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been told that the Palestinians have taken over large swaths of Israeli-controlled land in Judea and Samaria while authorities dither on what action to take, Makor Rishon reported Monday.

Testifying before the committee, a representative of the pro-settlement Regavim presented mapping data they collected that does not correspond to the data of the Civil Administration.

“They [Civil Administration] are talking about locating 650 buildings, we found 3,500 illegal buildings built in 2020,” Meir Deutsch said. “Today there are about 69,000 illegal buildings in Area C,” which amounts to 30 to 40 percent of Area C.

Deutsch, whose organization monitors enforcement of the law in Judea and Samaria, showed that in Area A, which is under direct Palestinian control, there are many empty areas suitable for construction without the need for Israeli approval, but the Palestinians insist on building in Area C, which is under full Israeli control.

Regavim said the Palestinians are taking advantage of Israel’s non-enforcement and taking over land in Area C due to the decision-making vacuum as Israel took the last six months to prepare for the application of Israeli sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria.

The sovereignty plan would have seen up to 30 percent of Judea and Samaria fall under direct Israeli rule, but last week it was indefinitely postponed as a condition for the impending establishment of diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, expected to happen at the White House in the coming weeks.

The committee was told that as early as 2017, the Civil Administration recommended a plan to register land in Judea and Samaria as a countermeasure to the registration proceedings initiated by the Palestinian Authority. Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked claims those plans got stuck with the prime minister.

It was revealed that the cabinet decided a year ago that action needed to be taken to thwart the PA’s plan to seize sections of Area C, but nothing was done.

“A common tactic of the Palestinian Authority is to build schools to facilitate a land grab,” Regavim tweeted, saying the Palestinians use large amounts of European funds provided for Palestinian construction in order to quickly put up buildings they call schools without building permits on lands not under their legal control.

The Palestinians then put students in the new school before legal action is taken to demolish the illegal structure, owing to the Israeli government dragging its feet on the legal procedures.

Israel not moving in immediately “makes it much harder for Israel to demolish. Political, international, media pressure works wonders,” Regavim said.

This article appeared on World Israel News