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.”

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.”

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.

On Thursday afternoon (29 September), shots were fired at Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria.

On a routine field patrol near Kiryat Arba, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria and the Municipality’s Land Protection Officer were targeted by gunfire. The incident ended without casualties. Regavim’s Field Coordinator, Menash Shmueli, alerted security forces who are combing the area in search of the terrorists.

The field team was documenting a new phenomenon in Area C: the creation of cemeteries in open areas, as another element in the massive takeover of land by the Palestinians to create Arab territorial contiguity while isolating and suffocating Jewish communities and disrupting their access to major traffic arteries.

Today we got a close-up view of how the battle for Area C, which we have been sounding the alarm about for years, morphs from illegal construction and seemingly-innocent agricultural expansion into life-threatening live fire – all in the blink of an eye.

In the video that was being filmed on location, the sounds of gunfire can be heard clearly in the final seconds.

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
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
Illegal Arab construction in Area C

In a renewed petition submitted to the High Court of Justice, the Regavim Movement calls for changes in Civil Administration procedures that automatically freeze enforcement against thousands of illegal structures in Area C. Regavim: “This procedural distortion encourages illegal construction, entrenches and enables the Palestinian takeover of Area C.”

In 2021, a Regavim petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) challenged Civil Administration and Ministry of Defense operational guidelines, in force for years, that actively violate the Planning and Construction Law. The implementation of these guidelines has created a protective shield for illegal structures by granting indefinite suspension of enforcement procedures against thousands of illegal Arab-built structures, entrenching their status and permanence and encouraging a surge of new illegal Arab construction.

The operational guidelines grant automatic, open-ended suspension of enforcement procedures against illegal construction in Judea and Samaria from the moment statutory appeals are submitted for any illegally-built structure – including requests for TABA (municipal masterplan), requests for a waiver of building permit requirements, appeals against demolition orders, requests to freeze enforcement procedures, appeals to the High Court of Justice – even when it is clear from the outset that these motions are totally without basis and will not be upheld due to insurmountable flaws in design, engineering, location, land ownership or other objective facts. By simply submitting unfounded or even absurd requests or applications, illegal structures enjoy an umbrella of protection, as enforcement is automatically frozen – indefinitely.

Regavim’s 2021 petition was dismissed when the State claimed that it had revised the problematic procedural guidelines – but Regavim’s petition argues that the changes instituted by the Civil Administration involve a minor procedural sub-paragraph that has no substantive impact on the operational guidelines or their problematic results. Regavim has now submitted a second petition, arguing that although the correction limits the blanket enforcement freeze to a certain degree, the procedural guidelines continue to uphold illegal practices and grant offenders protection from enforcement.

“The Civil Administration, which is responsible for enforcing the law in Judea and Samaria, has inexplicably expanded a loophole in the Jordanian law that is in force in this area, enabling illegal construction on a massive scale,” says Attorney Boaz Arzi of Regavim’s Legal Division. “There are currently some 80,000 illegal Palestinian structures in Area C of Judea and Samaria, the area ostensibly under Israeli civil and security jurisdiction. Every day, an average of 8 new structures is added to this incomprehensible number, alongside the massive territorial takeover through agricultural and roadwork projects – all of which are planned and carried out by the Palestinian Authority with the support of foreign concerns.” Arzi adds: “This absurdity must be stopped – immediately. There’s a battle raging on the ground for control of Area C, and the Civil Administration’s illegal procedural protocols are aiding and abetting the Palestinian Authority’s takeover.”

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.

**

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.

Don’t sell us out!
Israel’s security and sovereignty aren’t bargaining chips!

President Biden: Don’t exploit Israel’s unstable political landscape to extract historic concessions from an interim government that may be tempted to pay an enormously high price to shore up their election prospects.

Prime Minister Lapid: Don’t sell out our national interests for photo-ops with visitng dignitaries who have agendas of their own.

The itinerary of President Biden’s visit, scheduled for 13-15 July, includes several things that are tremendously problematic for Israel’s sovereignty and security:

  • A first-of-its-kind visit by a US President to East Jerusalem without any Israeli presence or accompaniment, signaling that our capital is divided between two independent sovereigns, constituting a substantive violation of US law, Israeli law and diplomatic protocol;
  • Solidifying Israeli agreement to a Palestinian Authority presence at the Allenby Border Crossing, signaling joint sovereignty and authority over our border and the secession of our our control and sovereignty over the Jordan Valley;
  • Official recognition of the upgraded status of the Palestinian Affairs Office as a de facto embassy to Palestine in West Jerusalem, with an eye towards opening a full embassy in the East Jerusalem consular building, shut down by the Trump Administration.

Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley are Israel’s most vital existential interests.

They’re not for sale.