Shortly before Pesach, Naomi Kahn, Director of Regavim’s International Division, participated in an international conference convened by thinc. – The Hague Initiative for International Cooperation – following the recent publication of their in-depth study of European policy in the Middle East, “Two States for Two Peoples? European Policy and the Arab-Israel Conflict.”
The conference, titled “Israel on Trial: The political and legal fight against Israel in the UN and other institutions – and possible ways forward,” brought together academics and activists, experts in international law, European policy makers and representatives of leading think-tanks and civil society organizations for a high-level discussion of current realities, policies and challenges facing Israel and Zionists around the world.
Plenary sessions, workshops and round-table discussions focused on “lawfare,” Europe’s two-state policy, European support for illegal activity in Judea and Samaria, and the unprecedented challenges facing Israeli in international bodies, including the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
Regavim’s presentation added an invaluable dimension to the discussion, providing documentation and analysis of the outcomes of European policy. Cooperation with the other leading organizations and experts in attendance is already in the works.
For the ninth time: the State of Israel asks the High Court to allow another postponement of its response to Regavim’s petition for the evacuation of the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost, Khan al Ahmar. Regavim: “A right-wing government is tested by deeds, not by words.”
The extension granted to the state four months ago to respond to Regavim Movement petition to relocate the Bedouin squatters of Khan al Ahmar ended today, and the state has requested an additional four-month extension to present its position.
“The political echelon remains steadfast in its position that the rule of law requires the demolition orders to be carried out in the Khan al Ahmar compound,” according to the state’s request, adding that in the weeks since the formation of the present government, the new head of the National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegavi, has been working in cooperation with the National Security Advisor, representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the IDF, the General Security Service (Shin Bet), the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice, and other government representatives.
“The details of this intensive effort speak to the complexity, sensitivity and importance that state officials attach to compliance with the conditional orders already issued in this matter, as well as the fact that the issue is a high priority… On the other hand, given the complexity of the issue and its sensitivity, the high level of interest in the international community and the and implications for the foreign relations and security of the State of Israel at the present time, those charged with handling this case at the professional level have been instructed to complete all necessary steps required to formulate an appropriate response to the conditional order as soon as possible. The formulation of a detailed response on such a sensitive and complicated issue justifies the position of the political echelon that an additional stay be granted to enable the professionals to complete their work and to submit a comprehensive analysis to the political echelon.”
The Regavim Movement issued a strongly-worded statement criticizing the postponement request. “We were hoping for an appropriate response by a national right-wing government – as promised in the election campaign,” said Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “There is no justification for this. Like Cato in ancient Rome, we continue to repeat the same demand, to hold the same consistent position, to call upon our representatives in the government to act immediately to evacuate this illegal encampment – as well as dozens of other Palestinian Authority outposts created in the same mold – not 300 meters away from its present location, but to the neighborhood prepared precisely for this purpose near Abu Dis.”
Regavim responded to the state’s request for postponement by calling on the High Court to issue a final order, as it intimated it would when it granted the previous postponement, and put an end to the saga once and for all. “This is an extreme case of ‘lack of reasonableness’,” added Deutsch. “After all is said and done, this case will prove whether the High Court applies the same standard of reasonableness to cases from both sides of the political divide, or whether the reasonableness standard is nothing more than a judicial fig leaf for a particular agenda. We await a final judgement for the relocation of the Khan al Ahmar outpost in a manner that is consistent with Israel’s national interests.”
This morning (Monday), Likud MKs Danny Danon and Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein joined the Regvaim Movement and the Jerusalem Environs Forum – and faced by a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Regavim: “The question isn’t whether or not, but how and when the outpost will be evacuated.”
The deadline for the state’s response in the Khan al Ahmar case is rapidly approaching – and the political pressure is climbing. This morning (Monday), World Likud Chairman MK Danny Danon and Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein were joined by Likud activists on a tour of Khan al Ahmar hosted by the Regavim Movement and the Forum for Jerusalem Satellite Communities. A group Palestinian Arab and leftist activists protested nearby, waving Palestinian flags.
Less than 2 weeks remain for the state to submit its response to the High Court of Justice in the sixth petition submitted by the Regavim Movement regarding the illegal outpost adjacent to Route 1, the main access road connecting Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and Israel’s eastern border. This most recent deadline marks the eighth time the state has delayed compliance. The fast-approaching deadline of 1 February is the ninth such extension granted by the High Court – which also declared that it would be the last.
MK Danny Danon: “I have come here today to strengthen our government as it prepares its response to the High Court regarding the evacuation of this site. Israel is a state governed by law and order, and we must not accept selective enforcement. Khan al Ahmar must be evacuated immediately. I am well acquainted with the international community. Our friends around the world will understand that there can be no place for selective enforcement that discriminates against Jews in Judea and Samaria.”
Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim: “The State of Israel must understand that this is a mega-issue that goes far beyond the Khan al Ahmar outpost. Our annual documentation and mapping of the illegal construction in Area C proves that in the past decade the Palestinian Authority has taken tremendous strides toward establishing a de facto state in the heart of the Land of Israel – and the government is simply closing its eyes to reality.”
“The new government must prove to the voters who elected them that it is a real Zionist nationalist government – and place the Battle for Area C at the top of the agenda. The question regarding Khan al Ahmar is no longer whether the outpost will be evacuated, but when and how.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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