Why doesn't Israel stop illegal Arab construction?

Knesset subcommittee debates problem of EU funding PA land grab on Israeli-controlled land - why is there no enforcement?

Hezki Baruch,

Illegal Arab building (file)
Illegal Arab building (file)
Regavim

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria held a follow-up discussion on Tuesday regarding the response to illegal Arab construction in the region's Area C.

Judea and Samaria was divided into Areas A, B and C in the 1994 Oslo Accords which created the Palestinian Authority (PA), and under the agreements Area C is under complete Israeli administrative and security control.

Representatives of Regavim, an NGO watchdog group for Jewish national property rights, spoke at the discussion saying, "in the region of Ma'ale Adumim (east of Jerusalem - ed.) alone there are around 1,000 illegal structures, and the trend is only building strength."

"This is a process that starts with tin shacks and later, if the structures aren't destroyed, they turn into mobile homes," said the representatives.

"The Palestinians' idea is to take control over the land, and therefore throughout the summer these buildings aren't even inhabited. This is a significant financial investment that is funded mostly by sources in the European Union. If those sources were to reach the conclusion that it isn't financially in their interest to continue transferring funds because Israel were to enforce the demolition orders, they would stop investing."

David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, said at the meeting that "the problem is not a lack of demolition orders. The opposite is true. The problem is that the courts don't allow the enforcement of the existing demolition orders."

"The regional council has demolition orders on buildings from the year 2000, and nothing is happening. We have to remove responsibility for the matter from the High Court. Maybe we also need to learn something from the Palestinians and to start building without permits on state land."

Also speaking up in the meeting was MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), who noted that "in terms of the results we are failing. Despite all the good intentions of all those in enforcement, there is too much illegal building and too few demolitions."

"Our actions need to be focused against the European Union on one side, and the lack of action by the Foreign Ministry which much act more aggressively," said the MK. "I feel that in this issue the political echelon has no intention of strengthening the governability on the ground in order to prevent a situation which is a disaster for generations."

MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), who heads the committee, said that in practice those in enforcement are doing nothing on the subject, both in terms of the operational and the legal aspects of the matter.

"The enforcement on the ground is not being managed equally between Arabs and Jews. In general the construction is directed by the Palestinian Authority mainly on strategic land - E1," he said, noting a highly important stretch linking Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.

He added that the illegal construction is "funded by the European Union in breach of the Oslo Accords."




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