Illegal construction has plagued the area of Yakir, an Israeli community in Samaria, and the junction near its entrance. We know about it all too well, as does the Civil Administration. Down the years, shops have been built illegally, one after another, next to the main road, leading to traffic accidents going in and out of the junction.

In recent weeks, we noticed that Arab residents from nearby towns began building another structure without permits. Not only is the structure in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction, it’s also in a ‘no-construction zone’, where construction of all sorts is not allowed.

But this isn’t about one structure. Over three years ago, we approached the Civil Administration a number of times about the widespread phenomenon of illegal businesses at the junction, and we even went to the High Court of Justice. Unfortunately, the High Court decided not to intervene in the CA’s decisions, and no proper enforcement was carried out on the ground. Occasionally, there were minor demolitions, but the shops quickly re-opened.

A drone image of the junction near Yakir in Samaria

It’s safe to say that the Civil Administration hasn’t managed to create enough of a deterrent against illegal construction in the area. Construction criminals have added more and more structures, in total disregard of the CA and the Israeli authorities.

Now, we’ve headed back to the Civil Administration – this time regarding the new structure. We’ve demanded the use of an “Order for Demolition of New Structures”, as per legislation from 2018 that was approved by the High Court in recent rulings. The legislation empowers the demolition of new, illegal structures in Judea and Samaria within 96 hours.

We’ve yet to receive an answer from the CA. This case will test whether the CA turns a blind eye to law enforcement even in such extreme and dangerous circumstances.

We’ll keep you posted.

High Court’s decision to allow the State an extension until 5 September

This afternoon (Wednesday) the High Court of Justice granted the government yet another extension, requiring a response to Regavim’s petition by 5 September 2021 – but stressed that this would be the last time.

The most recent round in the Khan al Ahmar case – the sixth petition by the Regavim Movement demanding the evacuation of the illegal squatters’ camp – follows more than a decade of legal ping-pong.

In 2018, the Israeli government gave a commitment to the High Court that Khan al Ahmar would be evacuated, but since that time the state has requested a number of extensions, citing a virtual laundry list of excuses.

Last week, the state’s lawyer requested yet another delay, claiming that the formation of a new government requires a re-evaluation of government policy regarding the illegal encampment on the Route 1 highway. This time, it appears that the High Court is losing patience; today’s decision granted a short extension but made it clear that this would be the last such delay.

“Like us, the High Court of Justice is fed up with the government’s “theater of the absurd,” said Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “The government’s ineffectual – even helpless – posture in the face of the illegal construction at Khan al Ahmar is emblematic of its weak-kneed stance against the Palestinian Authority’s strategic takeover of the open spaces of Judea and Samaria. We are gratified that even the High Court of Justice has grown weary of the government’s failure to enforce the law, to maintain order in areas under its jurisdiction, and to protect Israel’s national interests.”

Khan al Ahmar
Illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar in the E1 Region, east of Jerusalem

Following Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s announcement today (Sunday) that a formal request has been made to postpone the evacuation of Khan al Ahmar, Regavim calls upon Prime Minister Bennett: Pull yourself together and demonstrate who is really the head of this government. Evacuate Khan al Ahmar today.

Did someone say “government of change?”

In all of its recent campaigns, the Yemina Party and Prime Minister Bennett explained that Netanyahu had to be replaced in order to fight the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C, to stop the loss of state land in the Negev to Bedouin squatters, to restore the rule of law to the Galilee, the Negev and Israel’s mixed cities – and yes, to evacuate the illegal outpost known as Khan al Ahmar.

The fact that Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid chose to release a media announcement specifically on Tisha B’Av, notifying the public that a request has been made to once again postpone the evacuation of the illegal encampment on Route 1 – despite the fact that the state’s attorney submitted a response to Regavim’s High Court of Justice petition last week, leaves little room for doubt: Lapid’s “political spin” – at Yemina’s expense –  is intended to prevent Bennett from  actually carrying out any of his campaign promises and political commitments -in the Negev, in the Galilee, and in Khan al Ahmar.

Bennett, it’s time to come to your senses and demonstrate that you are actually Prime Minister. Evacuate Khan al Ahmar today.

Roadside at Khan al Ahmar, taken from Route 1 on the way to Jerusalem
Illegal construction in Duma, not far from Shechem

We’ve often mentioned the “Order for Demolition of New Structures” – legislation from 2018 that was approved by the High Court in recent rulings. On paper, the legislation empowers the demolition of new, illegal structures in Judea and Samaria within 96 hours.

However, since the legislation was passed, the Civil Administration has rarely used the enforcement tool – despite the widespread problem of mass illegal construction.

Regavim has filed a number of District Court petitions to force the Civil Administration to apply the legislation. In these court hearings, State Attorney representatives explained that the District Court has no right to judge cases involving the “Order for Demolition of New Structures”, and that these cases must go to the High Court of Justice.

So we acted in line with this standpoint, and recently we petitioned the High Court about the huge take-over of land in the Arab village of Duma. We demanded that the High Court judges instruct the Civil Administration to issue the Order.

But now the State Attorney representatives have asked to reject our petition on the basis that the authority to hear cases lies with… the District Court!

We’re confused. One moment, the State Attorney says that these cases must be heard in the High Court; the next moment, they say it’s the District Court.

As you probably assumed, while the Courts play a game of ping-pong, the residents of Duma continue their charge toward more land grabs. Recently, they even fully paved a new “road” without permission, as part of the #BattleforAreaC.

Regavim has submitted a harsh response to the Court, calling for the judiciary not to allow the Civil Administration and the State Attorney’s Office to turn the rule of law into a joke. We’ve demanded that the High Court of Justice uses its power and authority to instruct the CA to put an immediate halt to illegal construction projects in Duma.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

Illegal structure near Duma
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!

Following a petition we filed to the High Court of Justice against the Civil Administration, an illegal structure at an archaeological site in Samaria was removed. The CA was also charged with the expenses of the legal process.

A few months ago, we noticed an Arab invasion of Israeli state land at Khirbet Khurkosh, an archaeological site near the city of Ariel in Samaria.

Regavim alerted the authorities six (!) times to enforce the law, but work continued at the site – as part of the #BattleforAreaC. We petitioned the High Court to instruct the authorities to implement legislation from 2018 regarding the demolition of new structures.

During the court hearing, the Civil Administration told the judges that the structure’s owner, Falastin Musa Ahmad Abu Eid, received an interim order from the High Court that froze the enforcement process. However, the CA officials promised that once the interim order would expire, the new legislation would be applied in this case.

Despite this, and despite the Court fining the CA (essentially blaming them for the situation), the construction criminals continued to build at the site.

So we pressured the CA (again) to enforce the law, and finally, yesterday morning, forces came to tear down the structure.

We congratulate the CA for doing its job properly, but we are troubled by the fact that the authorities woke up only after Regavim’s petition and after the Court fined the CA. The whole point of the 2018 legislation is to facilitate and shorten the enforcement process, allowing for the demolition of new structures within days rather than months!

The Civil Administration doesn’t like public criticism and scrutiny, but in this case, their failure to act swiftly must be noted. It’s no wonder that the CA has proven incapable in the face of the strategic, systematic takeover of Area C and the open spaces in Judea & Samaria.
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On our part, we’ll continue to monitor matters on the ground, throughout the Land of Israel, and to protect Israel’s resources and preserve its sovereignty. If you would like to support our activities, make an online, tax-deductible donation here.

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.

The State of Israel enacted an effective enforcement order to fight the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria, but the Civil Administration has refrained from using it – despite the approval of the High Court of Justice. Now, the Regavim Movement and the Samaria Regional Council have submitted a High Court petition demanding that the legislation be applied against Palestinian invasion of an archaeological site in Samaria.

Over the past several months, Regavim has documented a persistent stream of incursion and annexation, as residents of Burkin, a village located in the area under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, have taken over a significant parcel of land in the Ariel Commercial Zone – located in Area C, under full Israeli jurisdiction.

The area that is being quietly annexed is adjacent to an archaeological site known as Khirbet Khurkosh, where a magnificent Hellenistic Era mausoleum was discovered, along with other remains dating from the Iron Age through the Middle Ages.

This gradual annexation began with road work, which was soon followed by land clearing and preparation for agricultural work. Mature olive trees were quickly planted, in an attempt to make the newly-cleared area look “old” – and now, a large structure, already connected to electricity infrastructure despite its considerable distance from the village, is nearing completion. This entire project is unfolding on “survey land,” Israeli state land for which full registration has not been completed.

The recently-filed High Court petition emphasizes that six different requests for enforcement were submitted to the relevant authorities at each of the stages of the annexation process, but the work continued, unhindered, and no discernable enforcement has been carried out.

For years, the Palestinian Authority and its partners in the European Union have exploited the Israeli bureaucratic and legal systems, successfully preventing law enforcement against illegal Palestinian annexation.

In 2018, the “Order for the Removal of New Illegal Structures” was enacted by the defense establishment and the State Attorney’s Office as part of the “Battle for Area C.” This legislation allows the demolition of new structures built without a permit within six months of construction. The order may be implemented within 96 hours of issuance of an eviction order.

The “Removal of New Structures” order is an effective enforcement tool that makes it possible to streamline the law enforcement process and make it more difficult for offenders to establish facts on the ground by abusing the judicial process.

After the “Removal of New Structures” order was enacted, left-wing organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to strike it down, but their petition was rejected and the High Court approved the order’s use. Nonetheless, to this day the state has made minimal use of this order, despite the fact that it has proven to be the most efficient and effective tool in the fight against illegal construction.

In the petition filed by Regavim Movement and the Samaria Regional Council, attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Cinnamon requested that the High Court order the authorities to apply the “Order for Removal of New Structures” against the ongoing invasion of Khirbet Khurkosh.

Samaria Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said: “The Security Cabinet announced its intention to battle the PA’s annexation of Area C, and the time has come for the enforcement authorities to act accordingly – to approach the problem in a systematic fashion and to act systematically. We must stop the Palestinian Authority’s rampage, and tell them, loudly and clearly, who’s the boss.”

The joint petition stresses that “this case illustrates the PA’s systematic, well-financed and carefully-planned takeover of Area C, which seeks to shift the focal point of Palestinian development from Area B to Area C. The Palestinian Authority is establishing facts on the ground in order to tie Israel’s hands – both in terms of current security considerations and in terms of political leverage in strategic points in Area C. These one-sided facts on the ground will impact the opening positions for future negotiations, and the State of Israel must address them right now.”

An illegal structure built on Israeli state lands at the archaeological site of Khirbet Khurkosh
Cover of Regavim’s 2018 report on High Court bias

Yesterday (January 11), a new poll was published by the Israel Democracy Institute reflecting a dramatic drop in the Israeli public’s trust in its government systems. One glaring finding shows that only 42% of the public express trust in the High Court of Justice, Israel’s highest court.

To bring this problem into clear focus, it’s worth analyzing this statistic through the prism of political affiliation. While 84% of those who identified as left-wing expressed trust in the High Court of Justice, only 38% of those who self-identify as right wing expressed similar trust.

How has it come to this?

For 15 years, Regavim has been speaking – and proving- the uncomfortable truth: the High Court of Justice is politically biased. It’s not a hunch or a subjective impression; Regavim has presented actual, empirical and undeniable evidence of the HCJ’s bias in three separate reports spanning over a decade.

We analyzed more than 110 petitions, submitted to the High Court of Justice by both left- and right-wing appellants over a period of 18 years. All of the cases involved illegal construction in Judea and Samaria, and in each case the petitioners claimed that the Civil Administration had failed to enforce the law against the illegal construction.

Roughly half of the petitions were filed by left-wing organizations against Israeli communities, and the remaining half were submitted by Regavim and other Zionist organizations against illegal construction in the Arab sector in Judea and Samaria.

All the petitions dealt with extremely similar legal issues and based their arguments on the same points of law.

Regavim’s analyses examined the procedural aspects of these cases, rather than arguments presented or the rulings handed down. These procedural elements serve as a neutral indicator, reflecting the opening position for each petition and the basic, underlying attitudes of the judges toward the issue at hand.

Our findings painted a disturbing picture:

• In petitions filed by the left, the average time allotted by the Court for the defendants’ preliminary response was 18.5 days, while in petitions filed by the right, respondents were allotted an average of 30.5 days to respond – a disadvantage of 150% against right-wing petitions

• For right-wing petitions, the average time that elapsed between filing the petition and its first hearing was 342 days, some three months longer than the time elapsed for left-wing petitions to be heard (average of 248 days).

• Interim orders were granted in 84% of left-wing petitions in which they were requested, while right-wing petitions were granted interim orders in a mere 13% of cases.

• In right-wing petitions, the Chief Justice participated in the panel in only 21% of cases, as opposed to 58% of left-wing petitions, reflecting the importance attributed by the Chief Justice to each case.

• Of the 61 petitions filed by the right in which an order nisi was requested, the Court granted only one (1.7%). Of the 43 petitions filed by the left in which an order nisi was requested, the Court granted 19 (44%).

• The average number of hearings held by the High Court of Justice for petitions filed by the left was 2.64, as opposed to 1.06 hearings for each petition filed by the right.

• Left-wing petitions remained active over an average period of 33.3 months. On the other hand, the average life span of right-wing petitions was 16.7 months.

Small wonder, then, that fewer right-wing people believe the High Court to be impartial; their perception of unfair treatment by the legal system is borne out by the facts. A growing  majority of the Israeli public understands that High Court rulings are dictated not by the law, but by the personal politics and agendas of the judges. All too often, the outcome of a given petition is a foregone conclusion once the panel of judges is announced.

As if this weren’t bad enough, the Court’s bias continues to be compounded by the ‘judicial revolution’ launched  by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, which paved the way for the judicial system to intervene in political realms that should be off-limits for non-elected officials. At the end of the day, legislators are elected and empowered by the public, and are held accountable by the public when they stand for re-election (which has been the case with alarming frequency recently!). Israel’s judges are appointed – in fact, they are, in effect, members of a self-selected elite. The public has no way to “un-elect” people who weren’t elected in the first place.

When lines are crossed, when personal bias and political agendas become so blatant that the public can no longer place its trust in the judicial system, we all have a problem – whether we consider ourselves “left” or “right”.

In order for trust to be restored, and in order to preserve our democracy and to restore a healthy balance between the different branches of government, Israel’s judicial system must be reformed. Until the process of judicial appointment is democratized and  the values of the entire Israeli public are represented on the bench, the public’s faith in our highest institutions will continue to decay – and with it, the very foundations of our democracy.

If you were asked to name a country where there is still a law in force that prohibits Jews from buying property, you might be tempted to make an educated guess based on the dark history of Europe and the long tradition of expulsion and persecution that was facilitated by anti-Jewish legislation over centuries. Places like Germany, England and France might spring to mind; Spain and Portugal might be in the running as well.

You probably wouldn’t guess that today, in the year 2021, a law is enforced by the State of Israel that prohibits Jews from purchasing privately owned property — but that is the sad and shocking truth. Law 40, enacted in 1953 by the Jordanians during their illegal annexation of Judea and Samaria, prohibits the purchase of privately owned land by non-Arabs, as well as the sale of privately owned land to non-Arabs (in other words, Jews). Not only is Law 40 still “on the books,” but it is actively enforced to this very day by the State of Israel’s legislative, judicial and security branches.

In a very real and undeniable sense, this legislation is, quite simply, racist. It is blatantly anti-Semitic. It is regressive, and an affront to the concepts of personal liberty, equality and property rights upon which democracy is based. Laws of this kind would not be allowed to stand anywhere in the civilized world, and it is nothing short of outrageous that the Jewish state has allowed this discriminatory and regressive legislation to remain in force in a judicial system that champions individual rights.

How, then, have Jews purchased property over the past 53 years? In 1971, the Military Commander for Judea and Samaria issued a “work-around” directive, by changing the Jordanian law that pertains to corporate ownership, while leaving Law 40 untouched. Thus, companies registered in Judea and Samaria — even if they are owned by Jews — are now permitted to purchase property in Judea and Samaria. Rather than strike down Law 40, the Israeli government has left it in place and designed a method of circumventing it.

Why, you may well ask? Why should this be necessary? Simply put, the State of Israel has spent decades avoiding any action that might be construed as an act of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. It has bent itself into contorted legal positions in order to avoid fulfilling its most basic responsibilities to Israeli citizens and to the security of the State of Israel. It has procrastinated to the point of absurdity, creating a vacuum of governance and a black hole of law and order that continues to turn normal life — for Jewish and Palestinian residents of “Area C” alike — into a tangled bureaucratic nightmare.

The legal departments of both Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Civil Administration have recommended additional methods of circumventing or even amending Law 40. The Regavim Movement, on the other hand, has petitioned the High Court of Justice to strike down this racist legislation altogether, and to expunge this anti-Semitic vestige from the Israeli legal code. Striking down Law 40 is a statement of Israel’s commitment to equal and universal rights under the law — a statement that is long overdue.