Responding to a petition filed by the Regavim Movement, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) issued a preliminary injunction against Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has refused to repeal the Jordanian law still in force in Judea and Samaria prohibiting the sale of land to Jews – despite the recommendations of previous ministers and Ministry of Defense professional and legal advisers.

Today (Tuesday) the High Court of Justice handed down a preliminary injunction requiring the government to submit, within 60 days, a defense of its continued enforcement of Jordanian Law #40 which prohibits the sale of land in Judea and Samaria to Jews. This law, passed in the 1950s during the Jordanian occupation, remains in force to this very day.

Among the many restrictions that apply exclusively to Jews and limit their ability to purchase land in Judea and Samaria, this is perhaps the most egregious – but it is certainly in not alone: Jews, and only Jews, are denied access to the Land Registry for this region, unlike any other area under Israeli jurisdiction, where land deeds and property titles can be obtained with the click of a mouse and downloaded from the government’s website. Likewise, Jews – and only Jews – are required to obtain approval of any property transactions (even when both the buyer and seller are Jews) in Judea and Samaria; Jews alone are subject to a staggering array of military orders that obstruct the use of land. – and the list goes on and on.

Since the liberation of Judea and Samaria in 1967 from Jordanian occupation (which was almost universally rejected and condemned by the international community), land purchases for settlement by Jews were carried out according to extremely convoluted work-around procedures designed to evade the problem rather than solve it: Corporations were registered as legal entities in Judea and Samaria, for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition against sale of property to Jewish individuals , thus avoiding “the Jewish problem.” Aside from the inherent racism of this arrangement, the work-around “solution” has posed a major obstacle to the development of Judea and Samaria, and a major violation of Jews’ fundamental rights.

In late 2018, the Ministry of Defense’s legal counsel and professional staff initiated an examination of Jordanian Law #40 and the regulations that require Jews to receive special permits for property transactions, with an eye toward their repeal.

The conclusions of this examination, reflected in a policy recommendation that took shape in the final months of Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s tenure, were finalized during the tenures of Netanyahu and Naftali Bennet who succeeded Lieberman at the helm of the Defense Ministry. They recommended the repeal of the restrictions that prohibit Jews from purchasing land, as well as a very significant easing of requirements for special land – transaction permits.

Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice when the current Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, announced that he does not intend to repeal Law #40 – despite the recommendations of the Ministry of Defense professionals and his predecessors, Netanyahu and Bennett.

Justices Hendel, Groskopf and Shochat today issued a preliminary order against Defense Minister Gantz, and required him to present his arguments against the repeal of the law within 60 days.

The Regavim Movement welcomed the news of the newly-issued order. Attorney Boaz Arzi said, “Our petition asked an obvious question: How is it possible in Judea and Samaria, of all the places in the world, a racist law still prohibits Jews from buying property? The High Court of Justice has demanded that the government explain why this law is still on the books, and why it is still enforced.”

Enforcement in Judea and Samaria

We got our hands on the information that we worked so hard to receive, finally. The news is upsetting, but it’s important for everyone to know. Israel’s Ministry of Defense has admitted that it has two different levels of enforcement in Judea and Samaria: one for Jews, and one for Arabs. We’ll let you guess where the enforcement is more heavy-handed.

For many months, we’ve been awaiting answers from the Ministry of Defense about the enforcement guidelines that are exercised in Judea and Samaria. Thanks to the petition that we filed, the Ministry was forced to admit that it’s not exactly ‘neutral’. Illegal Arab structures – in; illegal Jewish structures – out.

There’s no equality here, just plain racism. “Israeli construction that invades private land” is at the top of the enforcement priorities list, while “Arab construction that invades private land” is at the bottom of the list.

There are 60,000 illegal Arab structures in Judea and Samaria. 60,000! The law can and should be implemented against them, yet the Ministry of Defense allows the law enforcement bodies to turn a blind eye.

We demand that the Ministry of Defense assembles one list with all its enforcement priorities – to allow for equal, transparent, and fair management of its policies.

Illegal construction on IDF Training Ground 918

A new Regavim petition to the High Court of Justice has exposed an illegal internal protocol created by the Civil Administration, an arm of the Ministry of Defense. The very people in charge of enforcement are aiding and encouraging illegal construction!

Let’s say theres an illegal structure built by an Arab in Area C, which is under Israeli jurisdiction. The construction offender receives a demolition order. But instead of actually demolishing the illegal structure, the State of Israel, via the Civil Administration, allows the criminal to launch a bureaucratic cat-and-mouse game. By simply applying for a building permit, submitting an appeal when the permit request is denied, applying for a ‘taba’ (urban planning permit), and even an “exemption from enforcement” – the offender enjoys blanket protection against enforcement for years on end – even though this protection has no basis in the law. As crazy as that sounds, it’s standard procedure.

Each request, no matter how ridiculous, automatically suspends enforcement, and pushes off the structure’s demolition by two or three years. By then, another planning request is submitted, enforcement is again suspended, and so on. Once the process finally runs it’s course, the structure is considered “old construction” – which doesn’t interest anyone, certainly not the Civil Administration’s enforcement officers.

The legal departments of Israel’s security establishment are responsible for this procedural protocol – which is aiding and abetting the creation of a terrorist state in the heart of the Land of Israel. The Palestinian Authority learned and mastered the game ages ago, and continues to build rapidly, illegally, and strategically, all the while flooding the system with nonsensical, futile permit requests in order to delay and eventually prevent enforcement.

Watch this video, and see how the Civil Administration has stacked the deck and undermined the law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

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!

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

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.