Illegal Arab buildings
Illegal Arab buildingsRegavim

The Palestinian Authority has accelerated its efforts to seize land in Area C of Judea and Samaria – which is under full Israeli control – over the past decade, with an orchestrated campaign of illegal construction projects, a watchdog group warned Friday.

In a reported released Friday morning, the Regavim organization, which monitors illegal Arab construction in Israel, detailed the extent of the illegal construction projects carried out in Area C over the last ten years with the support of the Palestinian Authority.

The newly-drawn map of the situation on the ground reflects both illegal construction and land-grabs facilitated by “agricultural use” that takes advantage of the archaic system of law currently in force in these areas. All of these projects – construction and agriculture in the service of the future Palestinian state – are made possible by massive financial support provided by the European Union, individual European governments, and European NGOs, the Regavim report claims.

The master plan for this comprehensive, strategic operation was publicized ten years ago, according to Regavim.

Known as the Fayyad Plan for the Creation of the State of Palestine, then-prime minister of the Palestinian Authority Salaam Fayyad laid out a clear and methodical program for seizing control of territory in Area C to form a broad and viable basis for the Palestinian state, specifically in the areas under Israeli control.

Fayyad’s plan, published and activated only four years after the Palestinians and the Europeans committed to the Oslo framework, actively bypasses all negotiation or compromise with Israel, and simply creates facts on the ground.

The data, culled from analysis of GIS precise aerial photography, indicate that the number of illegal Palestinian structures has doubled over the last decade, during Binyamin’s term as prime minister.

In 2009, the number of illegal structures in Area C stood at 29,784, while in 2018 the number surged to 58,435.

The far more worrying statistic is the area covered by illegal Palestinian Arab construction: In 2009, some 44,538 dunams of land in Area C were being occupied illegally by Arab construction. In 2018, over 78,626 dunams have been overtaken.

The comparison of these figures with the Israeli “settlements” in Area C is instructive: Jewish communities currently cover some 2.5% of Area C. In the past decade, Jewish construction in Area C grew by less than 10,000 dunams, covering 47,327 dunams in 2008 and growing to an area of 56,700 dunams in 2018.

In addition to the illegal Arab construction boom, the program of agricultural land seizure has succeeded in poaching hundreds of thousands of dunams of Israeli-owned state land in Area C: Illegal agricultural projects, carried out on land registered or in the process of registration to the State of Israel, have effectively taken over massive swaths of the open spaces in Area C, taking advantage of a loophole created by the enforcement of the Ottoman legal code in this area that grants rights on the basis of agricultural use.

The data collected and published by Regavim was shared in recent weeks with the mayors of municipalities in Judea and Samaria, who are expected to launch a campaign in the coming days, sharply criticizing the government’s failure to enforce the law which has enabled the continued establishment of facts on the ground by the Palestinian Authority.

The mayors are expected to demand that the government formulate and enact an emergency campaign to halt any further progress toward the unilateral creation of a Palestinian state in Area C, with clear timetables for action, as well as concrete enforcement measures against recent illegal construction.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, released a statement following the publication of the data: “Gut feelings and hunches are easily argued, but the hard numbers speak for themselves and they are unequivocal. There is no status quo on the ground – the Palestinian Authority has been working non-stop to create immutable facts in Area C, while the State of Israel and its leadership have been fast asleep on the job. If the Israeli government doesn’t wake up, the citizens of Israel will wake up to a very harsh reality – a terrorist state right around the corner. The data are a wake-up call.”