Israeli town of Efrat, a six-minute drive from Jerusalem, and the hill upon which a new neighborhood, Givat Eitam, is to be built.

This evening (Tuesday) the High Court of Justice rejected a “Peace Now” petition arguing that Israel’s land allocation policy in Judea and Samaria is discriminatory and demanding that territory be granted to Palestinians in Efrat. Regavim: “As far as the left-wing organizations are concerned, no tactic is off limits when it comes to harming the State of Israel.

A panel of Supreme Court judges led by Chief Justice Esther Hayut today rejected a petition filed by Peace Now on behalf of Arab residents of Bethlehem, claiming discrimination in Israel’s land allocation policy. In an earlier stage of the case, Israeli authorities proposed that the Palestinians submit a request for allocation of a 51 dunam plot in the area designated for Efrat’s newest neighborhood; representatives of Peace Now rejected the proposal, claiming that it is “not even a Band-Aid on the systemic discrimination.”

The current petition, submitted on behalf of 13 Arab residents of Bethlehem, demanded that the state allocate land in the area of a future neighborhood of the Jewish community of Efrat, the Eitam Hill. The petition made a precedent-setting argument against Israel’s land allocation policy in general, claiming that there should be parity between land allocations for Jewish and Arab use in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.

The petition followed a long and winding legal battle, with roots dating back some 30 years to the establishment of Efrat on state land in Gush Etzion. “This petition represents a new tactic: In addition to the back-door methods of Palestinian annexation – illegal construction and agricultural landgrabs – Peace Now is trying to open the front door for the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C through Israel’s High Court,” explained Avraham Binyamin, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at Regavim. “The petition argues that the state discriminates against the Palestinians in the way it allocates land – but completely ignores the reality on the ground, in which the Palestinian Authority already controls nearly half of Judea and Samaria, and has vast available land reserves to which Jewish residents have no access.”

Binyamin added: “Far-left organizations will stop at nothing in their attempts to torpedo the growth of Jewish communities on the one hand, and promote the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria for a Palestinian state, on the other hand. As far as they are concerned, any and all means, including causing harm to vital Israeli interests and causing harm to Israel’s reputation and integrity, are acceptable.”

The High Court rejected the claim of discrimination, noting that the state had, in fact, opened the door to Palestinian requests for land allocations. 

Attorney Boaz Arzi of Regavim’s Legal Division noted that although the High Court rejected this petition, the state took its first step on a slippery slope by declaring that it will, under certain circumstances, agree to allocate land in Area C to Arab petitioners. “There is absolutely no justification for giving land away, for ceding control of vital state assets to the Palestinian Authority’s control, when there is more than enough land available in Areas A and B to provide for the needs of the Arab population. The land involved in this petition has been part of the municipal property of Efrat for years; the Arabs have been trying to lay their hands on it by every means possible – through illegal construction, through agricultural land-grabs, and now, through the Israeli courts.”

“The Peace Now campaign against the establishment of the Eitam neighborhood has been going on for decades,” noted Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “From the start, it has been riddled with distortions, half-truths and outright lies. We can only hope that the High Court’s rejection of this most recent attempt will put an end to the saga, and will clear the smokescreen that is used by the anti-Israel left to delegitimize Jewish community-building in Judea and Samaria and to defame the State of Israel.”

Illegal Palestinian construction in Area C

A report released by the Regavim Movement reveals that in 2022, illegal Palestinian construction in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction, increased by 80%. The report documents 5535 new illegal structures built in 2022, compared to 3076 structures in the same period in 2021. Regavim: “The Israeli government is creating a de facto Palestinian state.

In 2022, illegal Palestinian construction in Area C of Judea and Samaria boomed, outpacing the already-alarming rate seen in 2021 by 80%. Regavim’s most recent report, based on data collected through meticulous fieldwork, aerial photography and GIS mapping, compared the situation on the ground in 2021 to that of 2022. The study covered the period of April 2021 through April 2022, analyzing the number of structures, the legal status of the land on which they were built and the jurisdictional lines dictated by international law.

Regavim’s exhaustive study indicates that in comparison to previous years, the data for the most recent period are unprecedented, both in quality and quantity. The structures in built in recent months are not temporary shacks or makeshift shelters that characterized much of the illegal activity in earlier years; in 2022, new Palestinian construction is characterized by “palatial residences, sprawling holiday resorts, amusement and entertainment compounds and event halls, swimming pools and vacation villages, and high-rise residential and commercial towers.” In addition to the mass-scale construction, in many areas development and infrastructure work was carried out to lay the groundwork for future full-scale neighborhoods, such as at Khirbet Khattha near Tarkumiyeh and Lakef near Karnei Shomron.

Regavim studied construction patterns exclusively in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria placed under full Israeli jurisdiction in the Oslo Accords framework. At present, according to Regavim’s research, there are 81,317 illegal Arab-built structures in this area, covering an area of approximately 150,000 dunams – twice the total area of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria all told, legal and illegal. Illegal Jewish construction stands at 4,382 structures, of which 406 new structures were built in the time period of the new study. Although the disparity in number is striking, it is far overshadowed by the disparity in quality: Whereas illegal Arab-built structures are located in desolate, remote areas far from existing villages or settlement clusters, all of the illegal construction in the Jewish sector is located within the municipal “blue line” boundaries of Jewish settlements.

Analysis of the hard data reveals several additional important facts: Aerial photos show that in Areas A and B – the sections of Judea and Samaria placed under full Palestinian Authority civil jurisdiction under the Oslo framework, there are abundant empty spaces that remain undeveloped and completely un-utilized. Rather than developing these areas, Arab construction has continued to seep into the open spaces of Area C. Additionally, these same aerial photos leave no room for doubt: Arab construction is neither random nor haphazard. Construction is strategically placed, in accordance with the Fayyad Plan, according to pre-established criteria and objectives: Creating contiguous Arab settlement – a pattern that is particularly pronounced in northern Samaria; isolation and strangulation of Jewish communities; construction on the route of planned traffic arteries such as the Funduk Bypass Road and the Tekoa–Ibei HaNachal Access Road in eastern Gush Etzion; construction alongside existing highways, including Route 55 and Route 60, the main roads of Samaria and Judea respectively.

An extravagant event hall built illegally, documented by Regavim

In recent months, we’ve documented the illegal construction of a Palestinian water park in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.

The complex, which opened this summer, is located just 200 meters away from a major road in the heart of Area C, and has a large lawn, pools and facilities, including a massive parking lot where hundreds of people arrive every week to enjoy the attractions that were built without permits or supervision.

The Palestinians are enjoying themselves at our expense; this is another tactic in the Palestinian Authority’s plan to take over Area C.

An aerial photo of a water park built illegally by Palestinian Arabs

Palestinians have also built two event halls, also adjacent to critical roads, in Gush Etzion. These include magnificent gardens, pools, food trucks, playgrounds, soccer fields, volleyball courts, all built illegally on Israeli state lands.

Both halls were built in areas declared non-construction zones by the military, with the hall in eastern Gush Etzion next to a road where tens of thousands of Israeli vehicles pass by every day and is a known stone-throwing spot. The building works also damaged Jewish archaeological sites.

The Civil Administration has said that it’s aware of these illegal structures and issued stop-work orders. However, the two event halls remain standing, the criminals have not been brought to justice, and Israel continues to squander its precious land resources.

An illegal event hall in Gush Etzion, part of the Palestinian takeover of 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.”

A senior Canadian military officer seen visiting an illegal Palestinian structure

In recent weeks, we’ve noticed a delegation of senior Canadian military personnel that has been patrolling in uniform in Area C, including at an illegal structure in the South Hebron Hills region.

The delegation was also hosted by the IDF’s Central Command General Yehuda Fuchs, meaning that its presence in the area is known to and sanctioned by IDF officials.

The illegal structure that the Canadians visited was erected overnight on land designated for agriculture and belongs to the nearby Israeli community of Maon. Residents of Maon appealed to the IDF and the Civil Administration to stop the work and demolish the building. Apparently, the Civil Administration has pledged to enforce the law but has done nothing so far.

Shortly after the referral to the Civil Administration, the visit of the Canadian delegation, which included two uniformed military personnel, was documented.

The delegation was also documented during a visit to the village of Zurif near the community of Carmi Tzur in Gush Etzion, and this week they were seen again in a meeting with Arabs near the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion, also in Area C.

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It’s an utterly insane and blatantly rude move against the State of Israel for senior military figures from a foreign country to encourage construction criminals who are acting under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.

As long as the State of Israel sees itself as a guest in Judea and Samaria and does not conduct itself as the sovereign, the rest of the world will also see the State of Israel as a guest and not as the legitimate sovereign.

The ancient aqueduct. Credit: Preserving The Eternal

The illegal Palestinian quarry in Beit Fajjar has damaged around two kilometers of the ancient aqueduct that runs between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. The aqueduct, which dates back some 2,000 years to the time of the Second Temple is considered a marvel of engineering, as it twists and turns for a distance of some 40 km (25 miles) along rocky, hilly terrain that has virtually no incline.

For over 15 years, Regavim has been waging a legal battle to shut down the illegal quarry in eastern Gush Etzion. Responding to our first petition over a decade ago, the government informed the High Court that it had carried out a number of enforcement steps, and was working on a zoning plan for the area that would establish land-use directives for quarrying at the site.

On the basis of the government’s statements and commitments, the High Court rejected Regavim’s petition at that time. Then-Chief Justice Dorit Beinish, who presided over the case, stressed in her judgement that “we are assuming that the enforcement and regulatory actions taken by the respondents will continue, and that the policy that has been formulated will be enforced without interruption.”

Unfortunately, over a decade has passed, and not only have the Israeli authorities failed to take any steps to prevent the continued operation of the quarry, they have allowed it to expand by 33%, deepening the invasion of state land by more than 200 dunams beyond its boundaries. When repeated inquiries and correspondence on the matter were ignored, Regavim went back to court, filing a petition against Minister of Defense Beni Gantz, Minister of the Environment Gila Gamliel, the IDF Commander of Central Command, the Civil Administration and the Israel Police.

Above: 2019. Below: 2009.

The environmental damage caused to this area by the inaction of the authorities responsible for law enforcement is staggering, and, sadly, irreparable. The State of Israel has strict regulations for quarrying permits, and owners and operators are required to finance the rehabilitation of quarried areas when they become inoperative in order to minimize the environmental impact – but this policy vanishes when the imaginary line into Judea and Samaria is crossed. Adding insult to injury, when micro-measures are taken to rehabilitate illegal quarries in these areas, they are paid for by Israeli taxpayers, and the criminals who cause the damage simply carry on, rapaciously exploiting the natural resources of the Land of Israel as they scoff at the law and pocket vast profits, without any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Now, in the latest development, our friends at Preserving the Eternal (“Shomrim al Hanetzach”) have exposed the grave damage to one of Israel’s major archaeological treasures.

A screenshot of the Kisan village’s Facebook page that notes Swiss involvement in the construction of an illegal school

In early September, there was a special celebration in the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion in honor of the opening of a new school. But, as we told you before, the school was built without permits by the Palestinian Authority.

The construction period was short, and lasted just over a year. As soon as construction started, we sent urgent letters to the Civil Administration and the other Israeli authorities to stop yet another land grab. But that didn’t help. So we went to the Jerusalem District Court, although our petition was rejected because of the State’s promise in the court hearing to enforce the law at site.

But, of course, the law wasn’t enforced, and the school began to function in September 2020. Immediately, we petitioned the Court (again) to request an interim order that would prevent the opening of the school, but the Court didn’t comply with our request. And now, a year later, the illegal school in Kisan celebrates the Israeli authorities’ failure.

And it’s important to mention a line published on the village’s Facebook page: “It’s worth noting that the Kisan school project was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)”. That’s right, the famously ‘neutral’ Switzerland, that claims not to take any side in any conflict, is defying Israeli law, the European Union charter, and international law. The Swiss government is aiding the Palestinian Authority’s plan to establish a de-facto state in a territory that belongs to Israel according to international agreements.

For years, we’ve been protesting against the gross intervention of European governments in Area C. And for years, the State of Israel has decided to shut its eyes and ears as it squanders state lands. This is a major disgrace – in every sense.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

Up close: The illegal school next to the Herodion

For over three years, Regavim has been involved in a legal battle over an illegal school built right next to the Herodion, probably one of Israel’s most important historical sites.  

Back in 2018, we petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Civil Administration as the new school was allowed to spring up without permits. A demolition order had been issued, but the Civil Administration took no steps to enforce it. Our petition was rejected because the State had reached an agreement with the construction criminal whereby he would submit a permit request to the Planning and Authorization Subcommittee.    

After his request was dismissed, he petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to protest the decision. The Court issued a temporary order to instruct that until a different decision is reached in this case, the Civil Administration would not take enforcement steps against the structure.    

Since our 2018 petition was rejected, we consistently questioned the Civil Administration to clarify where the school’s planning and administrative procedures stood. Occasionally, we received partial updates about the legal status of the school.    

In March this year, the Civil Administration responded that indeed the permit request submitted by the construction criminal was rejected, yet they are unable to tear down the school because of the temporary order from the District Court.    

However, the Civil Administration is simply not telling the truth.    

We checked and found that the construction criminal’s petition had already been dismissed, along with the temporary order that had been cancelled, ten days before the Civil Administration’s response. It turns out that there was no legal obstacle in the way of exercising the demolition orders! The Civil Administration didn’t mention this important fact, nor did it take any practical action.    

Now, with legal procedures exhausted, we demand that the Civil Administration act immediately to carry out the demolition order against the school – which has expanded over the last year.    

The Civil Administration must prove that it is committed to the rule of law and to the protection of important heritage sites that belong to the State of Israel. No more excuses!

Illegal construction in Nahalin

We’ve been in the business of protecting Israel’s land resources for many years, but this episode is something we’ve never encountered before. In one of our recent legal cases, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the Civil Administration’s narrative, despite its neglectful conduct, and decided to hit Regavim with a 10,000 shekels fine!

Let’s start from the beginning.

A year ago, we told you about the illegal expansion of the Nahalin village in Gush Etzion. The moment the new plots began to be developed (illegally!), we recognized the threat posed to the nearby community of Rosh Tzurim, which is being choked.

We approached the Civil Administration, an official enforcement body of the State of Israel that must act in accordance with the law, to demand law enforcement at the site. However, the CA didn’t do much. Inspectors came to the site and hung up stop work orders, but construction continued relentlessly. The orders were completely ignored, and the area is now an illegal, Arab neighborhood.

After we sent more alerts to the authorities and didn’t receive any proper responses, we filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court against the Civil Administration. As usual, the CA told the judges that enforcement at the site would happen “in accordance with established enforcement priorities”. This was not surprising.

However, this time, instead of criticizing the CA for not doing its job, the Court bought the excuse of “enforcement priorities”! Our petition was rejected, and we were charged with the expenses, a hefty fine totaling ₪10,000.

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The Civil Administration’s goal is to exhaust Regavim, and to make us relinquish our efforts. You see, CA officials don’t really like it when we submit petitions and alerts, and when we present their deficiencies in the media and elsewhere. The CA prefers to deflect public criticism, attempting to hide their failures.

With each petition we file, we know that there is a chance that it will be rejected. But we are always guided by the importance of our mission, first and foremost: the protection of Israel’s resources and preservation of sovereignty. If Regavim didn’t exist, the situation on the ground would be much worse.

We call on you, our friends and supporters in Israel and abroad, to help us cover the costs. In order to continue our Zionist activities, and to point out the shortcomings of Israel’s enforcement bodies, we need your help. Make an online, tax-deductible donation here.

Aerial map of Nahalin; numbers indicate illegal structures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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