Illegal construction on IDF Training Ground 918

This article first appeared on the JNS Wire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The start of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to thank you for your support, encouragement and partnership.

This past year presented a new set of challenges. Lockdowns and social distancing, along with a volatile and exceptionally challenging political environment, forced us to find new, creative solutions in order to continue our important work. Despite it all, we are gratified by the progress we have made and the successes we have had in our fight to protect our national resources.

  • With your help, we protected our brothers and sisters in Lod and other mixed cities.
  • Our meticulously researched and carefully crafted strategic plan for the protection of state land in Area C and the Negev has taken center stage in the public discourse.
  • We prevented the repeal of the Kaminitz Law.
  • We blocked political deals that would have spelled disaster for the Negev.
  • We helped strengthen and empower regional land protection departments.
  • We successfully blocked highly polluting projects, and more.

All of our activities sent one message, loud and clear: The land of our forefathers – and of our children and grandchildren – is a good and beautiful land.

Throughout the year, and particularly at this time of year, we at Regavim share our success and our vision for the future with you, the partners who make our continued efforts possible. With your help and the help of the Almighty, we look forward to redoubling our efforts and achieving even more in the year ahead.

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Our newest report, tracking the Palestinian Authority’s use of illegal schools as a tactic of annexation, has been presented to the government, and will be available in English soon.

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Here’s a recent Israel Broadcasting Corp. video about the Negev, the 7th in a series already seen by thousands of Israelis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article appeared first on Fox News

Palestinian leaders and their western supporters on the political Left are now re-interpreting biblical history amid a wider expansion of woke activism in the Middle East, critics say. The Palestinian Authority (PA), emboldened by some in Europe and United Nations bodies, are looking to dismantle Judeo-Christian ties to the Holy Land as they seek to invent a new narrative favoring their claims on the region, opponents of the campaign argue.

“The PA’s erasure of Jewish history combined with the inventing of a Palestinian history is used by the PA to define Israelis as ‘Zionist thieves,’ ‘usurpers,’ ‘foreigners,’ ‘invaders,’ ‘colonialists,’ in short people with no connection to the land who therefore must be defeated and expelled,” Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli-based organization researching Palestinian society, told Fox News.

Marcus points to the many historically inaccurate statements made by senior PA officials, including President Mahmoud Abbas, who in a 2016 claimed during a televised speech on Palestinian TV that, “our narrative says that we were in this land since before Abraham. I am not saying it. The Bible says it. The Bible says, in these words, that the Palestinians existed before Abraham. So why don’t you recognize my right?”

Mahmoud al-Habbash, the Palestinian Authority Supreme Shari’ah Judge and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice denied the claims in a statement to Fox News. “We are not trying to rewrite history, but we have the right to write our history according to our narrative in which we believe, just like the Israelis who write their history according to their narrative in which they believe. We have our own Religious and Historical narrative, and the Jews have their own Religious and Historical narrative,” he said.

Al-Habbash concluded, “The Israelis do not believe in our narrative, and we do not believe in their narrative, but this is not the problem, The problem in essence is political and lies In the Israeli occupation of our country. Our Conflict is not religious or about history, it is a political conflict embedded in the Occupation, when the occupation ends, there will be no conflict between us, nor religious or historical.”

Jerusalem has and continues to be the main flashpoint in the fight to erase history. Senior Palestinian leaders summarily dismiss Judaism’s holiest site, The Temple Mount, as an “alleged Temple.” Ze’ev Orenstein, director of International Affairs for the City of David, an archeological site for ancient Jerusalem, told Fox News, “There is no place in the world which holds more significance for more people than Jerusalem. Yet, today, both the U.N. and Palestinian leadership are seeking to erase the Jewish and Christian heritage of Jerusalem.” 

“Every single day, archaeological excavations in the City of David – the place where Jerusalem began…are affirming not simply as a matter of faith, but as a matter of fact, the millennia-old connection of Jews and Christians to Jerusalem,” Orenstein added. “This includes the discovery of millennia-old inscriptions affirming biblical events; ancient seals with the names – in Hebrew – of figures straight out of the pages of the Bible, including that of the biblical King Hezekiah – direct descendant of King David from 2,700 years ago.” 

Orenstein says that by visiting the City of David, people can witness this history “with their own eyes, touch with their own hands, and walk upon with their own feet.”

Yet, while the erasure campaign is especially charged around Jerusalem, Regavim, an Israeli nongovernmental organization, warns that the cradle of Jewish history has been under constant attack for years.

“The Palestinian Authority has undertaken a very carefully and purposefully orchestrated program of historical revisionism, in an attempt to blur and eventually erase the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel,” Naomi Kahn, Regavim’s international spokesperson, told Fox News. “Because Judea and Samaria are the cradle of Jewish history, these areas are quite naturally the focal points of this insidious campaign.”

She said, “The Palestinian Authority and its supporters have proven willing, even eager, to destroy the physical remains of thousands of years of Judeo-Christian culture in an attempt to make way for a fictitious quasi-historical narrative that supports their political agenda.”

Kahn said the Oslo Accord made it clear that the Palestinian Authority had to protect sites of Judeo-Christian significance and that the PA “was required to protect and enable free access – for worship, study, tourism and scientific exploration.” The “PA has completely disregarded these requirements,” she said.

Kahn gave these examples:

Sebastia is the name the Romans gave to Samaria and the capital city of the Northern Israelite Kingdom founded in the 9th century B.C. It is now an official Palestinian tourism site, but Regavim claims that visitors will hear no mention of its Jewish connection, including its being an independent Jewish kingdom of which Samaria was the seat of government.

In the same area, Regavim said there once stood a Byzantine structure purporting to be the burial place of St. John the Baptist’s head, but added that the structure has been destroyed and defaced. It now lies in ruins. Regavim says other cathedrals that were turned into mosques in Sebastia have been reinterpreted in PA tourism guides. Regavim said it had identified over 300 such sites “that have been looted, damaged or totally decimated or are in the process of being wiped out.”

Kahn concluded with a warning, “Like the massive destruction wreaked on cultural artifacts by ISIS, the destruction of sites throughout Judea and Samaria is a tragedy for the shared cultural and historical legacy of humankind, and civilized nations should not be complicit in this barbarism.”

A leading Christian scholar says the attack on Jewish history has consequences for Christians. Rev. Dr. Petra Heldt, director of the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel, told Fox News that “re-writing biblical history with an anti-Israel attempt ventures to set a potentially fatal blow to the Christian faith.”

Heldt, who is also a professor of history of the Churches in the Middle East at Jerusalem University College and works on mutual understanding between Christians and Jews in Israel, noted that Christian society today is “often on the brink of forgetting the Bible and the Christian tradition.” She added that “re-writing Biblical history (in particular by eliminating Israel), therefore, will lure nominal Christians into the realm of the deceiver affiliated with agendas of anti-Semitism, secularism, or other religions.”

The PA-controlled historic city of Hebron is another flashpoint. Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron, said the city has served as an example of how the rewriting of the historical record has changed the historical narrative to favor the Palestinians. He noted that in 2017 UNESCO voted to put the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a Palestinian world heritage site that it said was under threat from the Israelis. That vote led the Trump administration to quit the U.N. body.

A spokesman from The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told Fox News, “All decisions at the executive board, general conference and World Heritage committee are adopted by member states, not by UNESCO itself,” when referring to votes on Hebron and Jerusalem. The spokesman continued that, “UNESCO will keep on opposing any attempts of revision of history: heritage in its historic complexity should unite people, rather than divide them. This is UNESCO’s core objective.” The spokesman concluded, “Any accusation or comment about UNESCO being ‘anti-Israel’ is clearly inaccurate.”

Fleisher, speaking on Fox News’ chief religion correspondent Lauren Green’s “Lighthouse Faith” podcast, discussed the significance of Hebron to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Fleisher explained that Israel’s first capital was Hebron, and that Genesis describes Abraham making a land purchase to bury his beloved wife Sarah 3,800 years ago in Hebron.  

He said Abraham was also laid to rest in the tomb with Sarah and following their passing so were his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, and their wives Rebecca and Leah. They were all buried inside the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriachs in Hebron, making it one of the holiest sites in Judaism. King Herod built a structure 2,000 years ago to mark the tombs and made it a mausoleum. Subsequently, the al-Haram al-Ibrahimi Mosque was built within the structure, and it still functions as an active mosque for Hebron’s majority Muslim community.

Fleisher sounded a warning on the consequences. “In lieu of defeating Israel on the battlefield, the jihad has initiated a war of delegitimization intended on erasing international support for Israel,” he said. “In essence it’s a massive smear campaign in which Israel’s ancient history in this land is systematically erased and replaced with an invented Palestinian narrative. The main target of this campaign are young westerners who are simply too ignorant to fight back with facts.”

Fleisher said he will continue to defend history from what he called “the jihadist replacement narrative. We will do everything to fight it and assert our historic rights in Judea and fight historical erasure.”

In June, we told our followers on social media about a massive industrial structure that was built illegally next to the village of Kifl Haris in central Samaria. The structure poses a safety threat to drivers on Route 5, the highway that connects the Jordan Valley to Israel’s center and Gush Dan.

We approached the Civil Administration twice to urgently demand enforcement steps against the structure and its builders. As you probably guessed, on both occasions we received the classic response: enforcement would be carried out “in accordance with established enforcement priorities”.

However, the criminals weren’t interested in the CA’s “enforcement priorities” and finished the construction within six months. The industrial structure sprawls over 4.5 dunams (!), and has been hooked up to electricity. The whole area around it was paved with asphalt, and more surrounding structures are under construction.

Last week, we came to check out the situation on the ground and found that Civil Administration officials had hung up Stop Work Orders on the structure. Right after construction was completed!

We have a request for the Civil Administration and Defense Minister Benny Gantz: explain what on earth you were thinking! Why put up Stop Work Orders on a structure where work has already finished?!

Regavim is considering its next steps. We can’t be sure that the CA will enforce anything, so we may have to file a petition with the Courts. Maybe then the “enforcement authorities” would be forced to awaken from their slumber.

The enormous illegal structure

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.

Yesterday, the Jerusalem Municipality and Israeli security forces tore down the illegal business complex at the north-eastern entrance to Jerusalem. The busy road going into the city can now be widened, which is sure to ease the traffic that drivers have become accustomed to near Hizma.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab residents who drive past Hizma suffer from the heavy traffic caused by the illegal complex. The complex also caused huge environmental damage because of waste disposal and misconduct of goods. And due to the proximity to the security fence, the businesses also provided a security threat.

Recently, we told you about the hearing on our petition at the Jerusalem District Court. During the hearing, a representative of the Ministry of Defense presented a secret enforcement plan to the judges while no one else was in the room. Our impression was that the Court reviewed the plan seriously, thus we agreed to pull our petition. However, we protested the decision to postpone enforcement at the complex, and demanded that the authorities implement the plan, in line with their promise to the Court.

Yesterday, the State finally fulfilled its promises and demolished a significant part of the complex. It’s a shame, however, that this case had to reach the Courts instead of the State enforcing the law straight away, when the first illegal business opened up.

The Binyamin Regional Council can now go ahead with their plan to add more lanes to the road, improving the lives of all the region’s residents.

We’re satisfied with this success, and will continue to advocate for law and order, equal enforcement and equal protection under the law as our only bulwark against chaos – now and always. To support our activities, make an online, tax-deductible donation here.

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