Is Regulation Law being used to protect illegal Arab buildings?

Passed by Netanyahu gov't to normalize status of Israeli towns, authorities now using law to protect illegal Arab buildings, says NGO.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

The illegal structure under construction at Samua
The illegal structure under construction at Samua

A law passed by the 20th Knesset to normalize the status of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria is now being used to shield illegal Arab construction from demolition, a watchdog group claims.

The Regavim organization, which monitors illegal Arab construction, claimed Monday that the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration is refusing to implement Supreme Court demolition orders against some illegally-built Arab structures, citing an unorthodox interpretation of the Regulation Law.

Regavim cited the example of an illegal school building, constructed by the Palestinian Authority on privately-owned land near the South Hevron-area village of Samua.

In 2017, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to demolish the structure, which had been built without any permits. In response to Regavim’s petition, the Civil Administration informed the court that this structure was high on its list of enforcement priorities. Regavim’s petition was therefore set aside, with the understanding that no judgment would be necessary; the structure would soon be demolished.

Some ten months later, as construction at the site continued unhindered, the High Court issued a temporary injunction that forbade any further work. Nonetheless, the construction work continued apace. Regavim submitted a second petition; once again, the High Court declined to hear the case on technical grounds (not enough time had elapsed between the two petitions).

This past February, when eighteen months had passed since the second petition was set aside and no enforcement procedures of any kind had been carried out, Regavim requested a status report from the Civil Administration. This time around, the answer was completely different: “The Civil Administration has no intention of demolishing the structure, since it falls under the stipulations of the Regulation Law, and the government is required to legalize it.”

In fact, The Regulation Law states that in cases involving structures built on privately-owned land with government approval or support, or when structures were built on land not known to be privately-owned at the time (“absence of malice”), the land on which the structures in question stand will be leased by the government, and the equivalent sum paid to the land’s rightful owners, without the need to demolish existing structures.

The Regulation Law further stipulates that in order for this arrangement to be applied, the State must be shown to have been actively involved in the construction, “including assistance in the creation of infrastructure and planning,” or in cases where “it is found that the structures were built in good faith, prior to the ratification of this law, on land that has not yet been registered or regulated.”

As a result of petitions submitted by leftist organizations to the Supreme Court, enactment of the Regulation Law was frozen, pending a High Court of Justice decision, with the stipulation that until such a decision is reached, no enforcement procedures are to be carried out against structures that fall under the law’s protections.

In the case of the school at Samua, construction was carried out despite Supreme Court work-stop orders, despite the fact that the Supreme Court rejected appeals submitted by the defendants against those orders, and despite a temporary injunction issued by the Supreme Court.

Regavim called the Civil Administration’s argument, that the structure falls under the protections granted by the Regulation Law, a legalistic manipulation which ignores the explicit language of the law itself.

“This is not the only case in which the State is twisting the Regulation Law to protect illegal Arab construction,” added Regavim’s spokesperson. “What we have here is a clear case of ‘the rule of bureaucrats.’ The Civil Administration opposed the Regulation Law from the outset, and is now using it as the basis for a warped interpretation of the law in what appears to be a calculated attempt to shirk its most basic responsibilities.”