Standing outside Benny Gantz’s house, Regavim’s Meir Deutsch presents the latest data on illegal construction in Judea & Samaria

The Regavim Movement constructed a “Palestinian outpost” outside the home of Minister of Defense Benny Gantz – and within minutes were “evicted.” “Gantz is singlehandedly creating the Palestinian state.”

This morning (Monday), members of the Regavim Movement erected a structure, decorated with Palestinian and European Union flags, near the Rosh Ha’ayin home of the Minister of Defense. In a matter of minutes, municipal patrol units and a police enforcement team arrived at the scene and demanded they evacuate the area.

The structure was built as part of the launch of Regavim’s most recent report on the status of land in Area C of Judea and Samaria. The “War of Attrition 2022” report reveals that the rate of illegal Arab construction has increased dramatically over the past year.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, presented the central findings of the new study: “During Benny Gantz’s tenure as Minister of Defense, 5535 new illegal Palestinian structures were built in Area C, the Israeli-controlled section of Judea and Samaria. Regavim conducts precise and in-depth analysis of the situation on the ground every year, and carefully monitors the spread of illegal construction. This month, when we completed our mapping and analysis of the most current data, we were shocked and appalled. Although we had strong suspicions that the situation was devolving, the facts are even worse than we imagined: Over the past year, the rate of illegal construction skyrocketed by 80%. Gantz is not merely abandoning Judea and Samaria, he is actively establishing a de facto Palestinian state. Israeli voters should make no mistake; the upcoming elections are about one thing: will a Palestinian state arise in the heart of the Land of Israel.”

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar, next to Route 1

Regavim first petitioned the High Court of Justice over a decade ago for the evacuation of Khan al Ahmar, the illegal squatters’ camp encroaching on Route 1 and the Jewish community of Kfar Adumim.

This evening, Amit Segal reported on Channel 12 News that the Bennett-Lapid government intends to relocate the squatters a mere 300 meters (330 yards) away from their current location.

This hare-brained scheme, hatched by the Ministry of Defense, will turn the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in Judea and Samaria into a permanent, recognized Palestinian settlement.

The PA targeted this point on the map precisely because of its critical strategic value as the link between Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho – an area where there is no Palestinian Arab presence. Enabling the takeover and de facto annexation of this strategic location will be a fiasco for the security and strategic integrity of the State of Israel.

The Israeli government invested millions, preparing an alternative location for relocation of Khan al Ahmar on Israeli state land in Jahalin West, but the relocation of the squatters has been stalled solely due to European pressure.

It is inconceivable that the very same members of this government who repeatedly attacked Netanyahu for his failure to evacuate the squatters of Khan al Ahmar are now responsible for this bizarre, pathetic alternative – one that is far worse in every way.

The planned relocation will do little to improve the lives of the squatters, but it will set a dangerous precedent of state-sanctioned annexation for the dozens of illegal squatters’ camps throughout the region that were established according to the Khan al Ahmar model.

Jahalin West: the relocation site that remains ready and waiting for the squatters of Khan al Ahmar
The illegal school near Kisan, eastern Gush Etzion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal structures in the Adumim region (E1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Regavim Movement issued a scathing rebuttal of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s statement earlier today comparing the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of land in Judea and Samaria to Israeli land grabs.

The written statement by Gantz was issued as an official reply to a parliamentary query submitted by MK Keti Shitrit (Likud) requesting clarification of the Defense Ministry’s response to the hostile takeover of the open spaces of Judea and Samaria.

In his response, publicized by Amiel Yarhi, political correspondent for the Kipa news site, the Defense Minister noted “attempts to trespass and to commandeer land in Judea and Samaria by both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Gantz referred to renewed issuance of construction permits for the Palestinian sector in Area C as the solution to the problem of land grabs.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, responded: “This document indicates that the present Defense Minister is completely clueless regarding the strategic issues involved. This is nothing less than a revisiting of a “Yom Kippur War-style” implosion for the Defense Ministry,” Deutsch said.

“The Defense Minister has compared a situation described by the Palestinian Authority itself as its primary objective for the past decade, establishing the Palestinian state in Area C – an objective that is funded by European support in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year that has enabled the Palestinian Authority to pave dozens of kilometers of roads, put up thousands of electricity poles, build hundreds of public structures, schools and religious institutions in illegal outposts, supports agricultural work that has already taken over hundreds of thousands of dunams of Israeli state land, and orchestrate the construction of some 3500 illegal structures each year – and the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel compares this enormous, organized, systematic program of annexation to illegal construction in the Jewish sector in Judea and Samaria, the sum total of which amounts to some 3000 structures.”

Deutsch added that “the Defense Minister’s utter lack of understanding of this matter is an existential threat to the State of Israel. It is clear to us that this disgraceful document, which reflects a dangerous and reckless approach to the problem, will be a key piece of evidence in the official hearings of the Commission of Inquiry, the updated version of the Agranat Commission, that will be appointed to investigate and analyze the conceptual failure behind Israel’s acquiescence to the conquest of Israeli territory by the Palestinian Authority without a single shot being fired.”

The written statement issued by Gantz
The illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

Khan al Ahmar: High Court of Justice grants the government an additional delay.  “Compromise attempts have become uncompromising contempt.”

The High Court of Justice granted the government an additional six-month delay in the Khan al Ahmar case. Regavim: Kicking the can down the road isn’t the solution, it’s part of the problem.

This morning (Wednesday), the High Court of Justice approved the government’s request for an additional six month extension of the deadline, to present to the court its plan for the evacuation of Khan al Ahmar, an illegal Palestinian Authority/European Union –supported  outpost in the Adumim Region. The decision is the most recent stage in the sixth petition filed by the Regavim Movement against what it has called “the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in the systematic takeover of Area C.” In 2009, Regavim filed the first petition against this Bedouin encampment on Route 1, a few short minutes’ drive from Jerusalem, in an attempt to compel the Israeli government to enforce the law and block the PA’s creeping annexation of state land throughout Judea and Samaria.

Presiding over the judicial panel, Justice Solberg’s decision included harsh criticism of the government’s conduct: “There is no doubt that the day is fast approaching when it will no longer be possible to accept the lack of clarity in this case, which requires a clear and decisive resolution – one way or the other. Even if the various proposed solutions were sufficient cause to postpone the inevitable, it is not possible to stall indefinitely. Even attempts to reach a consensual resolution must have limits. At a certain point, these attempts become a source of contempt, and this we must not accept. Our job as judges is to bring clarity to the petitions that are brought before us; this is our task, and this is our duty. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing in the face of this continued procrastination. We intend to complete the hearing process in this case soon after the government files its reply and after we consider any further responses to that reply; either way, this case must be resolved.”

Justice Stein joined Justice Solberg’s decision, adding that “the principle of legality, which we have been entrusted to carry out and to encourage, does not allow the state to ‘sit on the fence’ for years at a time and gaze at illegal structures without taking a definitive decision to either regulate or demolish them.”

Justice George Kra expressed reservations regarding the criticism voiced by his fellow justices, noting that he “at this time I see no reason to tie the court’s hands and limit our options regarding the continued adjudication of this petition.”

The Regavim Movement, which has been at the forefront of judicial and public opinion efforts to combat Palestinian annexation in Judea and Samaria, has been waging the battle for law enforcement in the Adumim Region through over a decade of Supreme Court petitions.

Responding to this morning’s decision, Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, noted: “The chronic ‘after-the-holidays’ excuse isn’t a solution – it’s part of the problem.  In the case of Khan al Ahmar, procrastination is an attempt to ignore reality and erase hard facts. The state is attempting, for the umpteenth time, to push off its commitment to evacuate Khan al Ahmar – until after the next holiday, Passover. Procrastination won’t change the bottom line: The State of Israel must take action against the ongoing Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria. Khan al Ahmar has been, and continues to be, the test case for the larger strategic challenge.”

Illegal construction on IDF Training Ground 918

This article first appeared on the JNS Wire.

Through incessant legal and procedural appeals, the PA has upended Israeli law enforcement and set the system against itself, creating facts on the ground and laying the foundations of a Palestinian state in the heart of the land of Israel.

It’s no secret that the system of law in force in Judea and Samaria is far from ideal: In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the Israeli government balked.

Rather than applying Israeli law to the territory liberated in 1967 — territory that had always been within the internationally recognized borders of the Jewish homeland—Israel chose instead to “temporarily” maintain the existing legal framework. Despite the fact that Jordan’s invasion, occupation and annexation of Judea and Samaria (the areas that it then began to refer to as “the West Bank” as a means of justifying its presence there) were illegal, and were never recognized by the international community, Israel deemed it more prudent not to act on its very solid and exclusive claims to the historic heartland of Israel.

Instead, it left the territory to the mercy of a hodgepodge of legal relics, pasted together with a smattering of military orders, that has continued to hold sway for more than half a century — longer than the Jordanian occupation and the British Mandate combined.

It’s no secret that this outmoded and convoluted system is a gold mine for construction offenders. Nor is it a secret that the Palestinian Authority and its generous European supporters have perfected the art of using this “system” to their advantage.

Antiquated, ineffective and labyrinthine Jordanian regulations have been famously exploited in what is known as “lawfare”: Through incessant legal and procedural appeals, the PA has upended Israeli law enforcement and set the system against itself, creating facts on the ground that are re-drawing the map and laying the foundations of a Palestinian state in the heart of the land of Israel.

Over the past two years, Regavim has filed a number of administrative petitions in the Jerusalem District Court (which serves as the Court for Administrative Affairs) against the Ministry of Defense and the Civil Administration, regarding instances of illegal construction and de facto annexation by the P.A. and its local authorities. Specifically, Regavim’s petitions sought the implementation and execution of the “Order for Removal of New Structures,” military legislation created by the defense establishment in 2018 to cut through the legal and bureaucratic red tape that characterizes “standard enforcement procedures” in Judea and Samaria, the legal quicksand that has made law enforcement virtually non-existent.

Again and again, the state’s lawyers argued for dismissal of Regavim’s petitions on jurisdictional grounds: The New Structures Order, they claimed, does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Administrative Court, and should be heard in the High Court of Justice (HCJ).

But when Regavim petitioned the HCJ to compel the state to enforce the “New Structures Order,” the government’s lawyers argued that the petitions should be dismissed out of hand, because an alternative legal remedy is available — namely, “standard enforcement procedures” arising from the Planning and Construction Code. Even though these alternative legal remedies have not been enforced, the state argued, the proper forum for hearing these cases is … the District Court.

The long and short of it is that the government’s enforcement arm is trying to dodge any and all cases involving its failure to enforce the law — either under the New Structures Order or under the Jordanian Planning and Construction Code, whether in the District Court or in the HCJ.

Avi Segal, Regavim’s attorney, explained: “At issue is a broader question that goes beyond the individual cases. The government is shirking its responsibility to enforce the law. This is a deliberate attempt to create a legal ‘Catch 22’ that will neuter the law and empty it of all meaning, while at the same time limiting the public’s ability to scrutinize and evaluate the state’s continued inaction before a court of law — whatever court that may be.”

In the HCJ hearing on Sept. 13, Justices Anat Baron, Yael Vilner and Ofer Grosskopf had some very pointed criticism for the State Attorney. The justices required the government to provide answers, rather than hiding behind procedural cat-and-mouse jurisdictional arguments.

The court’s decision is quite clear: The state will not be allowed to continue to duck the questions raised by Regavim’s petitions, nor will it be allowed to continue to use the “Catch 22” of jurisdiction to avoid enforcing the law. The state was required to submit, within 60 days, substantive arguments regarding its failure to enact the “Removal of New Structures Order” in these cases.

Furthermore, the state was required to submit, within 60 days, an update on its progress towards amending the “Removal of New Structures Order,” so that the question of jurisdiction is clarified once and for all.

Perhaps this will go down in history as the day that the government was forced to own up to its failure to protect Israel’s interests in Judea and Samaria, and the day that the Israeli version of “Catch 22” began to unravel.

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar; Route 1 can be seen in the background

The Regavim Movement reacted with concern to the state’s response in the Khan al Ahmar case, which was submitted to the High Court this evening.

The government requested an additional six month delay of the deadline to submit its official position to the court in the matter of the illegal outpost on Route 1 slated for demolition over a decade ago. During this additional half-year period, the state intends to submit a confidential document to the court detailing all the considerations that impact the enforcement of demolition orders at the site.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, sharply criticized the state’s response, and the conduct of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“From the first day of the current government’s term, we have stressed that deeds, not words, are what count,” Deutsch said. “Today it has become clear that contrary to its oft-repeated declarations, this government is continuing along the dangerous trajectory set by its predecessor, conducting its law enforcement system according to the whims of foreign governments.”

“The root of anarchy is selective, preferential law enforcement. No sector or segment of the population should enjoy immunity from law enforcement because of international pressure while the law is enforced against other sectors.”

Regavim noted that in earlier responses to the High Court, the state explained that law enforcement at Khan al Ahmar would be postponed for fear that this would trigger proceedings in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“This conduct broadcasts a very problematic message to the world, intimating that the State of Israel is a guest in this territory when in fact Judea and Samaria have been under internationally-recognized Israeli jurisdiction for a longer period of time than the British Mandate and the Jordanian occupation combined,” noted Deutsch.

“The time has come for the State of Israel to exercise its rights to this territory, and to behave in a manner befitting the sovereign body responsible for law enforcement in the area according to international law and in accordance with the historic right of the State of Israel to the territories of Judea and Samaria.”

It took a mere 12 months for the Palestinian Authority to build this enormous, impressive, and illegal school in Kisan, eastern Gush Etzion.

As soon as construction was underway, we petitioned the Jerusalem District Court – since the Israeli authorities did absolutely nothing to prevent yet another land grab. In response to our petition, the State representatives told the judges that Stop Work Orders and demolition orders had been issued against the illegal structure, however they refused to commit to a timetable of when the law would be enforced. Unfortunately, the Court accepted the State’s claims and rejected our petition.

The months passed by, construction was completed, and students are now pouring into the school.

We promised not to allow the story to end this way, so we’ve decided to file another petition with the Court. Rather than rewarding illegal activity, the State should be made to close down the school!

This school is merely one example of a widespread phenomenon. Recently, we published – in Hebrew – a comprehensive report about illegal, PA-built schools in Area C. The English version should be available in the nearby future. Our report reveals that, over the last decade, the Palestinian Authority has built 100 (!) schools without permits in strategic areas.

You might be thinking: ‘These schools are crucial for the education of Palestinian schoolchildren!’ But no. Our data indicates that these schools are no humanitarian necessity; they were quickly set up, without permits, in order to advance the Fayyad plan. The density in PA schools (313 students on average per school) is lower than in Israeli schools (337 students on average per school) and much lower than the density in schools in Jordan (476.9 students on average).

An analysis of our data also proves that these new schools weren’t built to compensate for problems of long distances. All of the schools, without exception, were established between a few hundred meters to three kilometers from already-existing schools.

You see, the PA knows all too well that Israel is unlikely to knock down the illegal schools. If Israeli authorities enforce the law, the media pump out heartbreaking photos of underprivileged children being ‘denied’ an education. If Israel turns a blind eye in order to avoid a black eye, the schools become anchors for new outposts in previously uninhabited – and generally uninhabitable – areas, and more funding pours in to alleviate the humanitarian hardships of these fabricated communities.

On a daily basis, the PA works to change the map, seizing strategic points throughout the territory. We call on the State of Israel to internalize, once and for all, that in the BattleforAreaC it has a right, responsibility, and a national interest to prevent illegal Palestinian construction. Time to wake up, before a de-facto Palestinian terror state is established in Israel’s heartland!

Illegal construction throughout Area C

We often discuss the issue of the illegal takeover of Area C, the area of Judea and Samaria under Israeli jurisdiction. Let’s break it down into numbers.

Illegal Palestinian structures, built in Area C without permits:
2009: 29,784
2018: 58,435
2020: 65,572

According to official data, every year the Civil Administration tears down between 200-250 structures. So even if you hear of the odd demolition, it’s like a drop in the sea. The Palestinian Authority is carrying out mass, rapid, illegal construction, changing the map by creating facts on the ground.

Looking at the number of illegal structures doesn’t tell the full story, however. While Israeli-Jewish construction is often ‘upwards’, the Palestinian-Arab construction tends to be ‘sideways’ – in other words, spreading over huge swathes of land.

In 2009, Israeli construction covered 47,327 dunams in Area C, while Palestinian construction sprawled over 44,495 dunams.

By 2019, the number of dunams covered by Israeli construction increased slightly to 56,700 while Palestinian construction was over 78,500 (!) dunams.

The alarm bells must ring. We are up against huge, EU-funded, PA-orchestrated efforts to steal more and more land in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction. In line with the Fayyad plan that was devised in 2009, the takeover is methodical, strategic, and effective.

Israel can win this battle; but it must change its mindset and understand that this is about the future of our ancestral homeland. We call on the Israeli government to prevent the establishment of a de-facto Palestinian terror state in Israel’s heartland.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty