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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last weekend, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) handed down a decision on a petition that’s been pending for two decades. The High Court allowed for hundreds of Palestinian invaders to be evicted from Training Ground 918, an IDF training zone in the South Hebron Hills region. The complicated case has been discussed in the courtrooms for no less than 20 years – a discussion that’s been based mainly on Fake News peddled by radical left-wing NGOs and the Palestinian Authority.

After repeatedly preventing any enforcement action against the invaders (who, in the meantime, built hundreds of additional illegal structures), the HCJ examined the aerial photos and maps, which prove beyond doubt that there was never any permanent Arab settlement in the area before it was declared an IDF training zone.

The Court’s verdict confirmed the obvious, and green-lighted the eviction of the invaders and return of the territory to the hands of the IDF.

It took two decades (!) for the HCJ to reach the right decision about 30,000 dunams that were stolen from the State of Israel – two decades too long, during which the case became more complex, problematic, and entangled in legal bureaucracy.

The Courts’ misguided and boundless leniency toward Palestinian intruders, even when at the expense of Israelis’ security and safety, proves to be a disaster, time and again. Instead of dealing with the problem in 918 early on, the State of Israel now needs to confront a difficult reality on the ground.

In the last few days, unsurprisingly, the Haaretz newspaper launched a propaganda campaign about the “Masafer Yatta eviction”. However, the facts are quite different, as we told you back in February 2021 >> see here.

Yesterday, after a field tour with the “Shrinking the Conflict” organization, we found our car with a shattered windshield, a broken door, and a huge rock left on the road. Ironic, no?

As part of a tour that focused on environmental issues, we stopped near Route 465 in the Binyamin Region to get a closer look of the raw sewage that flows unchecked out of Bir Zeit and into the nearby streams, polluting the ground, the water, and the entire ecological system.

When we were about 20 meters from the cars, we noticed an Arab driver who braked and hurled an enormous rock toward our cars, shattering the windshield of Regavim’s field coordinator. This was an act of hatred and violence – and a sadly symbolic end to the tour.

Luckily, we weren’t sitting in the car when the rock was thrown or driving at speed. Sometimes people forget or are unaware of the daily reality in Judea and Samaria. For a long time, Judea and Samaria has been plagued with Arab terror of various sorts: rock attacks, molotov cocktails, knives, guns, and other forms of violence.

We’re not going to back down. We’re not afraid. We’ll continue to protect Israel’s land resources and to preserve Israeli sovereignty – throughout the Land of Israel. This is our one and only country. We refuse to give up on it.

The illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

High Court issues conditional order: We are forced to move toward a conclusion in the matter of Khan al Ahmar

This evening (Sunday) the High Court of Justice issued a conditional order in the most recent round of the Khan al Ahmar case. Tonight’s order, giving the government 120 days to explain its failure to fulfill the three-year old commitment to enforce the law “in the near future,” follows the government’s most recent request for an additional postponement:

“In light of the frequent requests for extensions and postponements, some of which were justified but most of which were less so; and in light of the amount of time that this petition has been pending, nearly three years; and in light of the fact that this ‘saga’ has been unfolding since 2009 when demolition orders were issued … we are forced at this juncture to take a further step toward a conclusion, by issuing a conditional order.”

The Regavim Movement, petitioner in the ongoing battle over the illegal encampment in the Adumim region, reacted to the new order: “The fact that we have been forced to petition the High Court of Justice again and again in order to compel the government to enforce the law is bad enough. Even worse is the government repeatedly giving a commitment to the High Court that it will enforce the law – and then failing to do so. It is not the job of the judicial branch to bail the executive branch out of the mess it’s made.”

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

Israeli government asks High Court for an additional 30 days in the Khan al Ahmar case “due to the Prime Minister’s intensive involvement in the military crisis in Europe.” Regavim: “We may petition for a summary judgement.”

This evening (Tuesday) the state’s attorney requested an additional 30-day extension, in order to enable “the most senior levels of government, particularly the Prime Minister, to weigh in on this matter.”

The government had been required to respond to Regavim’s most recent High Court of Justice petition no later than this past Sunday (6 March 2022), but as the deadline approached the state requested a 48-hour extension. As this extension runs out, the state has requested an additional postponement, this time for 30 days. The request, submitted in a deposition signed by the Director of the National Security Council Eyal Hulata, claimed that the reason for the latest request was “circumstances that have arisen in the sphere of international diplomacy, including the Prime Minister’s involvement in the European military crisis.”

The Regavim Movement reacted to this latest request for postponement: “To the best of our knowledge, Prime Minister Bennett has returned from his trip to Europe, and as far as excuses go, this one is exceptionally flimsy. We are considering requesting a summary judgement.”

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.

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar, next to Route 1

Regavim first petitioned the High Court of Justice over a decade ago for the evacuation of Khan al Ahmar, the illegal squatters’ camp encroaching on Route 1 and the Jewish community of Kfar Adumim.

This evening, Amit Segal reported on Channel 12 News that the Bennett-Lapid government intends to relocate the squatters a mere 300 meters (330 yards) away from their current location.

This hare-brained scheme, hatched by the Ministry of Defense, will turn the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in Judea and Samaria into a permanent, recognized Palestinian settlement.

The PA targeted this point on the map precisely because of its critical strategic value as the link between Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho – an area where there is no Palestinian Arab presence. Enabling the takeover and de facto annexation of this strategic location will be a fiasco for the security and strategic integrity of the State of Israel.

The Israeli government invested millions, preparing an alternative location for relocation of Khan al Ahmar on Israeli state land in Jahalin West, but the relocation of the squatters has been stalled solely due to European pressure.

It is inconceivable that the very same members of this government who repeatedly attacked Netanyahu for his failure to evacuate the squatters of Khan al Ahmar are now responsible for this bizarre, pathetic alternative – one that is far worse in every way.

The planned relocation will do little to improve the lives of the squatters, but it will set a dangerous precedent of state-sanctioned annexation for the dozens of illegal squatters’ camps throughout the region that were established according to the Khan al Ahmar model.

Jahalin West: the relocation site that remains ready and waiting for the squatters of Khan al Ahmar
The illegal school near Kisan, eastern Gush Etzion

Switzerland is a supposedly neutral country that doesn’t take sides in any conflict and remained (or at least claimed to be) neutral during both world wars. Well, it turns out that the “conflict” in Judea and Samaria can tilt even the most neutral forces.

A few weeks ago, we sent a letter to the Swiss embassy in Israel after learning that the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) had funded a huge, illegal school on Israeli state lands near the village of Kisan in Gush Etzion. In the letter, we requested that the Swiss government desist from further participation in illegal construction or other Palestinian Authority attempts to unilaterally redraw the map of Area C.

The response: “Switzerland considers that the planning and zoning regime, as implemented by Israel in Area C, is not in conformity with international law. Switzerland also considers that the regime is implemented in a discriminatory manner, undermining prospects for a two-state solution.”

We’d like to remind the Swiss that all construction without planning permission from the Civil Administration is illegal. It violates both the military orders and civil laws in force in this territory, as well as international law and the principle of non-intervention, a foundational element of the United Nations charter.

The biggest absurdity in the letter came in the next line: “We welcome the recent commitment of the Israeli authorities to grant more building permits for Palestinians in Area C.”

Perhaps then you should decide: do you recognize Israeli jurisdiction in Area C or not? The truth is, the question should really be aimed at the Israeli government.

Over many years, Regavim has been sounding the alarm about undisturbed, immoral, and unlawful European activity in Judea and Samaria. We call on the Israeli government to awaken from its slumber, stand up for its rights, and begin to fight the #BattleforAreaC.

In November, we posted about dozens of staffing allocations for Civil Administration inspectors supposed to fight the #BattleforAreaC that have been reassigned to other CA tasks. So even in cases where private Jewish lands are seized by Arabs, the authorities are busy with other things. And what about the rule of law? Forget about it.

In 1979, Moshe Zar, a prominent land dealer in Judea and Samaria, began to purchase lands through a Jordanian company that he founded (because of the law that prevents individual Jews from buying land in Judea and Samaria). For around three years, he used his hard-earned savings to buy thousands of dunams.

In the last few months, our field coordinator, along with the Samaria Regional Council’s Land Division, was shocked to discover an extensive invasion of Moshe Zar’s lands. Every month, the illegal construction projects are gaining ground – quite literally – under the unwatchful eyes of the Israeli authorities.

In order to protect Zar’s property rights, we sent an urgent letter to the Civil Administration in which we demanded quick and critical enforcement action against the illegal construction.

This is the response we received: “Enforcement and supervision will be taken in accordance with procedures, and the implementation of enforcement will be determined in line with established enforcement priorities and subject to operational considerations.” However, up until this very day, no enforcement has been carried out, no equipment or vehicles have been confiscated, and the construction projects have only expanded.

A short video summary of our activities over the past year

From the May 2021 Riots through the Electricity Law, from the Palestinian Authority’s de facto annexation of Area C through countless hours of Knesset committee hearings and fieldwork, from countless courtroom appearances through grinding parliamentary policy sessions, from our constant presence on the ground to our incessant efforts to bridge the gaps in law and enforcement, policy and vision – this year, as every year, we present a summary and overview of Regavim’s activities.
 
As always, we take stock of the year’s achievements and challenges with the approach of Tu B’Shvat, the day we celebrate the natural rebirth of the Land of Israel – and the founding of Regavim.
 
This year, as we have for the past 15 years, we did our utmost to insure that land policy in the State of Israel reflects core Jewish and Zionist values, using every possible means to combat the unrelenting opposing forces that seek to obscure and disrupt the connection of the Nation of Israel to this good and sacred Land.

We’re pleased to present our in-depth annual report here.

Thank you for your partnership and continued support.