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.”

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.”

Our most recent report, currently being translated into English, is an in-depth, up-to-date study of land use policy in the Negev, offering a comprehensive survey of the history and land ownership claims of the Negev Bedouin community, settlement and regulation efforts and the current realities created by illegal construction and more.

This report offers multi-disciplinary analysis – and presents Regavim’s proposed solutions for the Negev Challenge. To read the full version in Hebrew, click here.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Regulation of illegal settlements and land ownership
The Vanishing Negev report is a study of mass-scale illegal construction in the Negev, focusing in particular on the development of this phenomenon in the years 2005 – 2021, and on the means by which settlement in the region can be regulated and organized.

The question of regulation of the illegal settlements of the Negev is integrally related to the issue of land status regulation in this region. As of this writing, there are approximately 470,000 dunams of land in the Negev for which Bedouin maintain unresolved  ownership claims. These claimants hold no official title or deed, and the land is not registered to their ownership; nonetheless, within the Bedouin community, their ownership is considered inviolable: According to Bedouin law, no one may settle on land that another Bedouin claims as his own, whether or not it is officially registered as the property of the State of Israel or another individual.
 
These issues impact many other areas, from  the Bedouin community’s standard of living, through the regulation of settlement and the development of the Negev for the benefit of all residents of the region, to the erosion of governance in the Negev.
 
As of January 2021, the Bedouin population of the Negev is 278,616. Of this number, 82,084 reside in illegal settlements and 174,420 in the seven townships; the remaining 22,112 live in the rural regional municipalities (the Abu Bassma settlements).
 
The fertility rate of the Bedouin population of the Negev is the highest in Israel, and among the highest in the world. As a result, the population of the illegal encampments and the number of new illegal structures that comprise these sprawling clusters of settlement increase at a rapidly accelerating pace each year. At the same time, the number of ownership claimants – the descendants of the original claimants – continues to grow exponentially, making efficient, timely resolution of ownership claims and regulation of illegal settlements increasingly urgent.
 
From the establishment of the state until 1966, the Bedouin, who maintained a nomadic lifestyle, lived under military rule in an area known as “sayig, spanning some 1.1 million dunams in the triangle between Dimona, Arad and Beer Sheva. In 1966, military rule was lifted, and between 1966 and 1990 the state established 7 all-Bedouin towns (each with the status of a local municipality):  Rahat, Tel Sheva, Segev Shalom, Hura, Ar’ara, Kseifeh and Lakiya (“the 7 townships“).
 
The westernized character of these townships did not necessarily reflect or respond to the social and cultural characteristics or the needs of the Bedouin population. These townships suffered from chronic deficiencies of municipal services and employment opportunities, and to this day they continue to languish at the bottom of the socio-economic scale. As a result, many of the residents of the illegal encampments refused to relocate to these failed communities.
 
Additionally, nearly 45% of the area of the seven townships is comprised of land for which individual Bedouin claim ownership, and a considerable portion of the residential plots developed or zoned by the government are on this land, resulting in the Bedouins’ refusal to relocate to these plots, and ongoing obstruction of  development and infrastructure projects. For these reasons,  the seven townships continue to suffer from inferior infrastructure systems and desolate neighborhoods that coexists alongside populated, developed ones. After years of stagnation, most of the plots for which there are ownership claims were designated for “natural growth,” – for descendants of the claimants – rather than for resettlement of families that remained in the illegal squatters’ camps outside the township boundaries, creating a shortage of plots for relocation of Bedouin who are not descendants of land claimants.

The Abu Bassma Settlements
The government sought a solution for the Bedouin residents of the illegal encampments, but rather than creating organized communities through a careful process of detailed planning that would provide electricity and sewage infrastructure, the government took the path of whitewashing or legalizing existing clusters of illegal structures, cobbling them together to form municipalities. From 2003-2006, these illegal clusters were given official recognition and post-facto permits as new rural municipal entities. One exception was Tarabin a-Sanaa, which was planned and built in an organized fashion, “from scratch,” on registered state land. In 2003, the Abu Bassma Regional Council was established, bringing together 11 of these “legalized” villages.
 
In 2012, the Abu Bassma Regional Council was divided into The Al Qassum Regional Council, which includes Umm Batin, El Sayyed, Darijat, Kohlah, Sa’wa (formerly Molada) Makchul and Tarabin a-Sanaa, and the Naveh Midbar Regional Council, comprised of Abu Qrenat, Bir Hadaj, Kasr a-Sir, and Abu Tlul.
 
Very quickly, the land reserves designated for these villages was filled with illegal structures, including massive villas, agricultural structures, commercial structures, fenced-off areas and more – in order to stake claims to the land that would soon be within the boundaries of the soon-to-be-established villages. The new structures joined hundreds of others that pre-dated the “legalization” plan, all of which interfered with -and eventually overwhelmed the planning process. The result was large settlements spread over vast swaths of land, with no viable infrastructure systems and no possibility of creating them. Some of these settlements developed characteristics of rural communities, while others  resemble massive illegal squatters’ camps rather than new legal settlements.
 
Other than the Bir Hadaj and Tarabin a-Sanaa villages, which were established for the most part on state land, the legalized settlements include sections for which there are outstanding ownership claims. This, too, has made it difficult for the government to develop these communities, to connect them to water and electricity, or to complete the process of physical regulation; efforts to do so have been blocked by ownership claimants. Additionally, because the land cannot be officially registered due to these ownership disputes, the Israel Lands Authority does not grant the approval necessary for building permits.
 
In order to encourage Bedouin from the illegal encampments to relocate to these legalized settlements, the government offered economic incentives. Since the 1970s, every young Bedouin is entitled to a parcel of land between 800 – 1000 square meters – gratis – as well as subsidies to cover the costs of development. Over the years, the state has increased these incentives, which currently include a cash grant of NIS 250,000 in addition to the free plot of land.
 
In practice, the incentives have achieved the opposite of their intended goal. Because the incentives are a one-time offer per family, and these families are well aware that the value of the plots of land continues to rise and the incentive payments continue to be more and more generous, they choose to wait until their children come of age, at which time they will be eligible individually. When these children come of age, they, too, consider the next generation – and remain in the illegal squatters’ camps. This is exacerbated by the fact that the legal communities are not an attractive alternative to the squatters’ camps: The standard of living is no different, and the basic services provided to residents are virtually identical – but residents of the illegal encampments pay no taxes. In fact, there is considerable reverse emigration, from the legal communities to the illegal encampments.
 
Rather than shrinking, the illegal encampments continue to grow, both in size and population – not despite the relocation-compensation package offered by the Israeli government, but because of it. 

Illegal construction
From the end of the military rule in 1966 through 1994, every year another 200-300 new illegal structures were built in the Negev. From 1994 through 2003, an average of 3,000 new illegal structures were built annually. In 2005, there were 33,783 illegal structures in the Negev; between 2005 and 2010 another 14,700 were added to that number. By 2015, there were 65,911 illegal structures in the Negev, and in the following two year period, by 2017, an additional 11,529 were added – an annual average of more than 5,750 . By 2018, there were 80,282 illegal structures in the Negev, of them 18,661 in the Abu Bassma settlements and 61,621 in the illegal encampments. In the 2018-2021 period, another 5,774 illegal structures were built, so that by 2021 the total number of illegal structures in the Negev stood at 86,056.

Illegal Structures in the Negev 2005-2021

The structures of the illegal encampments, home to 82,000 Bedouin (comprising less than 1% of the total population of the State of Israel), are spread across some 2,00 cluster that cover nearly 600,000 dunams (600 square kilometers). By way of comparison, the remaining 99% of Israel’s population populates an area of some 940 square kilometers (the total built-up area, including residential, commercial, industrial, trade and office structures). The area of the illegal squatters’ camps is 11.5 times greater than the area of Tel Aviv, where some 460,000 people live. 

The consequences of the rampant illegal construction in the Negev are far-reaching and long term, and include very serious harm to the State of Israel’s governance in the Negev, where the rule of law has broken down. It also has a detrimental impact on planning and development of the Bedouin communities and on the Negev as a whole, both in the short term and for future generations. It has a very negative impact on the quality of life, and leads to rising levels of violence and crime, as well as an extraordinarily high rate of road accidents, and harms the environment and the ecosystem.

Government attempts to resolve ownership claims

Until 1979, some 3,200 ownership claims were submitted by Bedouin citizens in the Negev, covering an area of 776,856 dunams. The Israeli government’s policy regarding these claims has zigzagged: At times, the state attempted to resolve ownership claims through the judicial process, including submission of counter-claims as a means of precipitating a judicial decision; in every case the counter-claims process resulted in registration of the disputed land to state ownership. Other times, the state suspended the process of judicial counter-claims and incentivized Bedouin squatters to settle ownership claims through arbitration and compromise, relying on cash and land-swap compensation packages that become more and more lucrative over the years. Either way, the process of resolving ownership claims has been a slow, painstaking one. As of 2017, a full 50 years after the ownership claims were first filed with the special registrar’s office in Beer Sheva, the State of Israel had managed to reach agreements and resolve claims for only 160,000 dunams (with the largest number of agreements recorded in 1980, in the context of the peace treaty with Egypt, when Israel Airforce bases had to be relocated from the Sinai Peninsula to the Nevatim Airforce Base and some 5000 Israeli Bedouin who had been squatting on the land had to be relocated quickly). There were also legal proceedings conducted regarding 140,000 dunams, at the end of which the land was registered to the State of Israel. Some 470,000 dunams of land remain in dispute. As time goes by and claimants’ heirs come of age, the number of claimants continues to grow, as we have noted, making compromise and resolution of ownership claims less and less attractive and lucrative to those who now hold an interest in only a fraction of the original claim. 

In an attempt to establish a comprehensive policy for dealing with the Bedouin sector in the Negev, including the issues of land that we have described, over the years a number of committees and other frameworks have been established; each presented its own proposals, plans and documents. In practice, the core challenges were passed from one committee to the next, and from one government to its successor, without formulation of a comprehensive policy and without formulating a multi-year, budgeted program. The breakthrough came with the Goldberg Commission, which the government established in order to formulate policy for the regulation of Bedouin settlement in the Negev, including legislative amendments. The conclusion of the Goldberg Commission’s report, presented to the government in December 2008, was that the problem of settlement and the issue of resolving ownership claims were intertwined, and that it would be impossible to resolve one without the other.

In regard to settlement, the committee recommended “recognizing” clusters that were large enough to subsist as municipalities, and relocating those clusters that could not be regulated or legalized, subsuming them within legal townships or rural settlements. Addition recommendations included establishing an enforcement framework that would act vigorously and decisively against new illegal construction, streamlining and concentrating enforcement authority, and fast-tracking legislation to carry out the processes of legalization and relocation.

In light of the Goldberg Commission’s recommendations, a team, headed by Ehud Prawer, Director of the Planning and Policy Division in the Office of the Prime Minister, was tasked with implementing the Goldberg Commission’s recommendations, and the Prawer Committee submitted draft legislation for regulation of Bedouin settlement in the Negev. When the government passed the bill, it appointed Minister Binyamin Zeev Begin to lead the implementation process, and passed a government decision to launch a five-year plan with a budget of NIS 1.2 billion for the social and economic development of the recognized Bedouin settlements in the Negev and to provide support for the population of those settlements. Minister Begin launched a “listening process,” sitting down with hundreds of representatives of the Bedouin community, which he summarized in a report that included a series of amendments to the legislation submitted by the Prawer team – for the most part mandating increased incentives and compensation packages. Begin, like Goldberg, stressed that the questions of Bedouin settlement and land ownership claims were inextricably related, and he warned against any further delay in regulating and registering the ownership of the land in the Negev.

In 2013 the government submitted the legislation, “Law Concerning the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev 5773 – 2013.” In December 2013, against the backdrop of fierce opposition to the legislation by representatives of the Bedouin community and Members of Knesset who spoke for them, and in light of changes made to the original wording of the legislation  that were not to his liking (based on recommendations of the Regavim Movement), Minister Begin decided to withdraw the bill.

The resulting legislative vacuum, exacerbated by the government’s failure to formulate and communicate coherent, cohesive policy, continues to be filled by a variety of organizations; operative issues, such as land offers, compensation ceilings, relocation incentives and formulas for compensation of claimants were determined by unilateral decisions of the Israel Lands Authority.

In 2015, Uri Ariel was appointed Minister of Agriculture, and was given ministerial responsibility for the Government Authority for Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev (“the Bedouin Authority”). In 2017, Minister Ariel decided to change the approach and to separate the settlement issue from the resolution of ownership claims. He developed a large-scale plan, and the government adopted it as its Five-Year Plan for Socioeconomic Development of Bedouin Society in the Negev 2017-2021, with a budget of NIS 3 billion. The plan’s objectives included improving the socioeconomic status of the Bedouin population, development and stabilization of the settlements from an economic, social and communal perspective, closing education and other gaps and mainstreaming the Bedouin population in Israel’s society and economy. 

Regarding development of the settlements, Minister Ariel’s goal was to complete planning, regulation, development and marketing of 25,000 residential units in the local municipalities. To meet this goal, tens of thousands of plots of land were prepared and marketed, while at the same time enforcement against new illegal construction was significantly increased.

But there was a catch: The plots that were planned and marketed went mainly to “natural growth,” meeting the needs of the second generation of the families that were already living in the legal communities. Thousands of other plots were essentially “whitewash” projects within the Abu Bassma villages or post-facto legalization of “internal squatters’ camps” (in other words, structures that had been built illegally within the municipality borders, either violating or disregarding the municipal plans that had been approved for the settlement). Once again, the government stuck to the path of legalization, with the myriad deficiencies detailed in the pages above, rather than leading a methodical process of planning.

While these decisions were taking shape, enforcement was lagging far behind the pace of new illegal construction throughout the Negev – very far behind. Even worse, due to the lack of comprehensive policy and clear enforcement guidelines, whatever enforcement was carried out served the goal of legalizing internal squatters’ clusters, rather than serving the original purpose of resettlement of squatters from the outlying encampments into the legal communities and returning poached land to state hands.  

In short, the relocation of squatters out of the sprawling illegal encampments into legal communities was neglected; the failure to make the necessary preparations for absorbing the squatters into legal communities was coupled with failure to enforce the law against new illegal construction in the illegal encampments. 

The attempts made by Prawer, Begin and Ariel each had deficiencies and difficulties; the most critical of these lacunae were:

1. Inconsistent, zigzagging policy regarding resolution of ownership claims;

2. Failure to consider Bedouin traditional law, which was not taken into account in the planning of the seven original townships, was given no consideration in the process of legalizing the Abu Bassma villages, and is not a consideration in proposed solutions for absorption of relocated squatters;

3. Lack of comprehensive policy and clear, detailed law enforcement plans against illegal construction and for the evacuation of squatters’ camps. The “carrots” offered by each of the plans were hungrily consumed, but the “sticks” were left propped in a forgotten corner of the room.

These lacunae have had direct and immediate consequences:

1. The State of Israel has not yet succeeded in resolving ownership claims, and no resolution of this problem is in sight.

2. Infrastructure in the legal settlements – and particularly in the Abu Bassma communities –  is severely lacking. Some of these legal towns and villages contain large sections of desolate, phantom neighborhoods and roads that lead nowhere; other sections bear far more resemblance to squatters’ camps than to normal, modern settlements. 

3. Illegal construction is out of control, and the population of the illegal hinterland is growing by leaps and bounds.

A broader consequence of the massive scale of illegal construction in this region is that the State of Israel is losing its governance in the Negev. For all intents and purposes, the situation has devolved into a free-for-all, reflected in skyrocketing crime rates, high rates of truancy and attrition from the education system, a very high incidence of polygamy, and more. Disenfranchisement among Bedouin teens and young adults and the widening chasm between Bedouin society and Israeli society at large are expressed in shrinking rates of conscription to the IDF,  a highly disproportionate rate of involvement in serious road  accidents, and a general atmosphere of lawlessness that is victimizing the residents of the Negev and beyond – Bedouins and Jews alike.  

The State of Israel must take courageous, swift action in four specific areas:

1. Policy: 

The government must establish and promote clear policy, and create a an independent policy body within the Office of the Prime Minister tasked with formulating and enunciating comprehensive policy parameters to be implemented consistently over the coming years.

2. Development of settlements:

‎‎a. Planning and preparation of settlements to absorb residents of all of the illegal encampments;

b. Expansion of existing settlements exclusively on state land for which there are no unresolved ownership claims, based on the availability of land in each of the settlements.

3. Regulation of the illegal encampments and enforcement against illegal construction:

a. Create a methodical multi-year plan for the resettlement of residents of the illegal encampments in permanent, legal communities, according to a detailed, predetermined map (either to single-tribe settlements, or to an urban, pan-tribal settlement) and according to a non-negotiable timetable upon which compensation will be contingent.
b. A clear, detailed program for regulation of the illegal construction in the Abu Bassma villages and demolition of structures that cannot be given permits or whose owners are not interested in legalizaing.

c. Increasing manpower in enforcement bodies, improving for regulation-related enforcement and enforcement against illegal construction.

4. Resolution of ownership claims:

a. A final, non-negotiable timetable must be established for resolution of ownership claims with a scale of compensation that is lowered as time goes by. When the time allotted for negotiation expires, the government must resume the process of judicial counter-claims and the registration of land to state ownership.​

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Time is running out. It’s time to shake off the indifference. We need courageous, dedicated, strong and responsible leaders who are not afraid to carry the weight of this process and who have the necessary strategic vision to act. It’s time to return the State of Israel’s governance to the Negev.

**

Regavim has been studying, documenting and recommending solutions for the Negev for over 16 years. Our Director General, Meir Deutsch, recently published a book that offers an insider’s view of the situation on the ground. Order your copy today.

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
A map that outlines one of six masterplans that will compromise Israeli national interests

Thousands of dunams for expansion and construction – on land that will cut off Jewish communities from Jerusalem: Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria express outrage at the announcement of permits for Palestinian Arab construction as a gesture to welcome President Biden. Regavim: “This is a fatal blow to Jewish settlement and to Israeli democracy.”

As part of a package of “good will gestures” honoring honoring US President Biden upon his visit to Israel, the Israeli government will approve 6 masterplans for Palestinian settlements in Judea and Samaria. These plans will result in de facto Palestinian annexation of large sections of Area C – the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction. They include “legalization” of hundreds of illegally-built structures and expansion of Arab villages, isolating and choking existing Jewish communities and threatening the security and feasibility of the entire settlement enterprise. 

The plans will reward the Palestinian Authority’s continued efforts to create facts on the ground, and encourage the continued implementation of the Fayyad Plan of territorial takeover using precise placement of illegal construction and agricultural projects.

The Arab village of Batir, located between Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood and Gush Etzion, will be granted a permit for no less than 518 illegal structures as well as expansion of the village by some 3000 dunams – an area comparable in size to the city of Ariel. The plan will effectively cut off Gush Etzion from Jerusalem and severely compromise the security of the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem Tunnel Road.

Another plan, in Eastern Gush Etzion, will approve the expansion of Kisan by 615 dunams, severely limiting access for Jewish communities of eastern Gush Etzion and any possibility for future growth. Similar plans for the village of Pakiks will cut off the Jewish community of Negohot in the South Hebron Hills area.

Approval of Municipal Masterplans (Tab”a) are also planned in Binyamin and Shomron, including a plan that jeopardizes the very heart of Samaria, near Highway 5 between Ariel and Revava.  Another plan up for approval is Hizme, adjacent to Jerusalem’s Pisgat Zeev neighborhood, where expansion by hundreds of dunams will bring the village even closer to Israel’s capital.

“This is a catastrophe that must be averted – immediately,” says Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “Saar, Shaked, Kahana, Elkin, Hendel, Orbach – you were elected on right-wing votes because you promised to protect the Jewish settlement enterprise. You handed Yair Lapid his seat in the Prime Minister’s office, and you are the reason Benny Gantz is Minister of Defense. It is your responsibility to block this insane plan to whitewash thousands of illegal structures that will cut off Jewish settlement blocs from Jerusalem and give permanence to the criminal Palestinian takeover of Area C.”

The Emergency Regulations Law in Judea and Samaria was passed today by the government, but still needs to be brought back to the Knesset plenum. This ongoing saga exposes the decades-long failure of Israeli governments to formulate policy for Judea and Samaria.

Last week, the Knesset plenum voted down what has been a standard piece of legislation for some five decades. The first reading of the bill to extend emergency regulations in Judea and Samaria for another five years failed to pass, for the first time since 1967: 52 MKs voted in favor, 58 opposed.

The emergency regulations apply Israeli law to citizens living in Judea and Samaria, and mainly concern the powers of Israel’s judiciary and executive branches regarding Israelis who have committed crimes in Judea and Samaria, including areas under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. These regulations make it possible for Israel to carry out orders and enforce punishments on Israeli citizens and creates a framework for legal cooperation between Israel and the relevant arms of the Palestinian Authority.

The emergency regulations will expire at the end of this month, which may complicate matters for law enforcement authorities as well as for the residents of Judea and Samaria. In the opinion of the Deputy Attorney General, “This will create legal and practical difficulties in conducting complex or joint investigations, which is a significant factor and a vital element of the powers vested in the Military Governor, impacting governance of the area and maintenance of public order and security.”

The real story here is the ongoing failure of Israeli governments to formulate policy, to articulate a national vision, and to demonstrate governance. The only thing that has prevented Israeli governments since 1967 from applying Israeli law in Judea and Samaria is their own reticence – actually, their timidity. This has led to a chaotic reality that harms the security and quality of life of the residents of Judea and Samaria, Jews and Arabs alike, and the security of the State of Israel as a whole.

These regulations deal mainly with criminal law and civil rights. The various technical clauses reveal the official policy of the State of Israel to criminality in Judea and Samaria, but what they do not include may be even more telling: In completely ignoring the issues of proprietary rights – real estate law and ownership – they lay bare the government’s failure to protect the basic rights of the State and its citizens. Proprietary rights in Judea and Samaria remain under the Jordanian and Ottoman systems, and these laws are outdated, ineffective and in some cases even antisemitic. Even worse, perhaps, is the selective manner in which these laws are enforced by the Israeli judicial and military systems.

Selective enforcement of outrageously outdated laws has enabled – and continues to enable – the Palestinian Authority to exploit the Israeli system, to annex vast areas of Judea and Samaria, to redraw the map, and to lead the entire region toward violent confrontation. Continued reliance on emergency legislation may be the lesser of evils, but it is most certainly not the solution.

Aerial image of plots in south Rahat intended for the Abu Quider clan

Today (Wednesday, 8 June) the Supreme Court denied a petition filed by the Rahat Municipality – neutralizing one more attempt to sabotage the relocation of thousands of Bedouin squatters and the regulation of Bedouin settlement in the Negev. Regavim: “The Bedouin leadership itself is throwing the monkey-wrench into the works and obstructing the regulation process.”

Earlier today (Wednesday), the High Court of Justice (HCJ) rejected a petition submitted by the Rahat Municipality against the State’s decision to allocate plots of land in a new neighborhood for resettlement of members of the Abu Quider clan who have been squatting illegally on privately-owned land. The government decision to develop a new neighborhood in Rahat for this clan was taken many years ago, but has languished, unimplemented, ever since.

More than three decades have passed since an agreement between the Bedouin Authority and representatives of the Abu Quider tribe was signed. The plan was to resettle squatters in permanent housing in Rahat, but it was opposed by the municipality, which claimed that the land in question was needed for “natural growth” of the existing population of Rahat who would be at an unfair disadvantage if the Abu Quider agreement is upheld. Over the years, in the context of attempts to reach a compromise through mediation, Rahat’s municipal lines were expanded – at the expense of the neighboring Bnei Shimon Regional Council – in order to set aside plots for “natural growth;” the cost to the Israeli taxpayer was hundreds of millions of shekels.

Today’s HCJ decision refuted the Rahat Municipality’s claims that the resettlement agreement with the Abu Quider clan would result in discriminate against the residents of Rahat or create inequality. The Court determined that the steps taken by the Bedouin Authority were all fully within its purview; the Bedouin Authority has both the authority and the responsibility to develop new neighborhoods for the resettlement of squatters. The judicial panel, headed by Judge Khaled Kabub, was “unconvinced” that the authorities’ behavior was disproportionate to the extent that judicial intervention was required. At the same time, the Court upheld the State’s argument that Rahat’s land reserves are sufficient to meet the needs of natural growth for decades to come.

The decision clears the last remaining obstacle to the relocation of the squatters into the city and the return of the land commandeered by the Abu Quider clan to its rightful owners. It should be noted that Regavim and the legal owners of the land upon which the Abu Quider squatters continue to live petitioned the HCJ a decade ago. The legal process for that petition, which dragged on for years, resulted in a High Court decision that required the evacuation of the squatters and the return of the stolen land to its legal owners – but did not make specific demands upon the State to take action, due to the Rahat Municipality’s objections.

“Abu-Sahiban, the mayor of Rahat, is doing everything in his power to sabotage resettlement and regulation efforts,” says Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “During the long years of legal procrastination, the Rahat Municipality has extorted more and more land and ever-expanding development budgets with one hand, while with the other hand it has obstructed the state’s regulation efforts. Today, the High Court finally put an end to this. We hope to soon see the land in al-Zarnug returned to its rightful owners.”

The Regavim Movement’s recent High Court of Justice petition targeting Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s refusal to revoke an anti-Jewish law still in force in Judea and Samaria is approaching the next stage, and Regavim has released a video highlighting the issue.

“The situation is so ridiculous, it’s difficult to explain how it has continued for so long,” said Tamar Sikurel, Regavim’s spokesperson. “The State of Israel continues to enforce a law that discriminates against Jews and bars them from purchasing land in the heart of the Land of Israel. Discrimination of this kind would be immediately struck down in any other modern democracy – but here, in our ancestral land, the government of the Jewish state is afraid to protect the rights of the Jewish People. It’s an outrage, an affront to justice and equality, and a badge of shame”.

Nearly two months ago, the High Court of Justice issued a conditional order to repeal Jordanian Law #40 in response to a petition filed by the Regavim Movement; the government and the Minister of Defense were given 60 days to file arguments in defense of their continued enforcement of the law that prohibits the sale of land in Judea and Samaria to Jews.

As the deadline nears, the Regavim Movement has called upon Defense Minister Gantz to adopt the professional opinion of former defense ministers Lieberman, Netanyahu and Bennett – an opinion shared and supported by the Ministry of Defense’s experts and legal advisers – and repeal the racist law without delay.

“Defending this indefensible law will only add insult to injury,” added Sikurel. “Defense Minister Gantz – don’t wait for the High Court to intervene. Strike down Jordanian Law 40 today!”

Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility (top-right) and the raw sewage it is meant to treat

After 14 years, Israeli government to issue tender for the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility

Important environmental protection victory: A “Green Now” petition has resulted in an announcement by the state that it will issue a tender for bids to operate a wastewater treatment plant serving Ofra and adjacent Arab villages – 14 years after construction of the facility.

Are 14 years of bureaucratic foot-dragging and ongoing pollution about to end? Yesterday (Thursday), the Israeli government notified the High Court of Justice that it would publicize a call for bids for the operation of a wastewater treatment facility to serve the Jewish community of Ofra in the Binyamin Region, as well as five neighboring Arab villages. In the state’s response to a petition filed by the environmental protection group “Green Now” and residents of Ofra, the High Court was notified that the Civil Administration’s Committee on Tenders has approved the documentation and publication of a call for bids to plan, construct and operate the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF).

The WWTF at Ofra was built by the Binyamin Regional Council, with government funds, in 2009, but only after construction was completed, the land on which it stands was identified as privately owned. The project was frozen in 2011, before the facility was activated, when leftist organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice.

In its decision, the High Court instructed the state to activate the facility only after completion of legal expropriation of the property, which was duly completed in 2019 – but the facility wasn’t activated. Ever since, millions of cubic liters of raw sewage from Ofra and the nearby villages has continued to flow past the padlocked gates, polluting the soil, poisoning the olive groves and the groundwater.

In a hearing of the Green Now-Ofra petition in February 2022, the justices excoriated the state, and expressed outrage over the length of time that the process has dragged on – over a decade after the previous High Court of Justice decision was handed down. The High Court denied the government’s request for an additional extension of six months in order to prepare for publication of a tender.

Attorney Shlomo Meir Rabinowitz of “Green Now” responded to the announcement: “More than a decade has passed since the High Court of Justice’s decision decried the ongoing, catastrophic damage to the environment that continues with each passing day that the wastewater facility is left inactive. Now that the Civil Administration has announced the approval and publication of a call to submit tenders, we will continue to monitor progress, to insure that the Civil Administration does, in fact, take the necessary steps to activate the facility as promised. It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to get results.”

A ground-level view of the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility
A view from above: Town of Lehavim in the Negev

Today (Sunday) the Israeli government approved the establishment of 5 new settlements in the Mevo’ot Arad region, including a new Bedouin settlement. Regavim called the decision a “positive and proactive Zionist settlement policy decision.”

The Regavim Movement welcomed this morning government’s decision to establish five new settlements in the Mevo’ot Arad region. Among the slated new communities is a new all-Bedouin settlement.

Regavim’s statement pointed out that today’s decision affirms decisions taken by the previous government in 2011 and 2014.

“The Mevo’ot Arad region is a strategic area for the State of Israel, and strengthening this region through the establishment of new settlements is an expression of basic Zionist ideals, using planning and regulation of land resources for settlement in a manner that will make the Negev desert bloom. We congratulate Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked for her leadership in this matter.”

Regavim also welcomed the establishment of a new Bedouin community in the region, provided that it is established in accordance with the planning criteria set for the establishment of the other new settlements in Mevo’ot Arad, and subject to the ‘convergence model’ for relocation of Bedouin squatters formulated by the current government:

“Several months ago, the government approved the establishment of three new settlements and a new supra-tribal city for the Bedouin sector, subject to the ‘convergence model’, which includes detailed identification of the encampment clusters slated for relocation, signed consent and relocation commitments by 70% of those slated for relocation to the new community, and clear deadlines for relocation. These same criteria must be applied to the new community approved in today’s decision.”