Arab MKs threaten violence over building laws

Government finally moves to crack down on illegal Arab building in Israel, sparking backlash from extremist Arab MKs.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

  (illustrative) Arab construction worker in Jerusalem
(illustrative) Arab construction worker in Jerusalem
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

Following the announcement that previous legal decisions about illegal building throughout Israel will be more strictly enforced, Arab Join List MKs threatened that Arab Israelis will respond with violence. 

The enforcement will be based upon the recommendations of a team that was appointed a year ago by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. The recommendations of that team were submitted on Sunday and were approved by Weinstein, and are now set to be implemented.

MK Yousef Jabareen branded the enforcement "racist."

“Instead of working to regulate illegal construction and invest efforts in planning for this purpose, the attorney general lays the groundwork for conflict with the Arab community, thus he serves the unacceptable racist political agenda of the prime minister and his ministers on the extreme right,” Jabareen said.

MK Basel Ghattas went further still, threatening a violent backlash. “We have been working for years to freeze demolition orders to arrive at an arrangement regarding construction that is not according to the law, but the authorities ignore this demand.”

Ghattas warned that the government should not pursue these recommendations, and that if it does it would create a violent conflict perpetrated by Arab citizens. “The outcome will be very severe for both sides. We have no interest in violent conflict between the Arab minority and the state, but if this policy continues, it will come. The state…makes itself the enemy of the Arab citizens with its own two hands.”

The recommendations have come with a special emphasis on Arab and Druze communities. Arab community planning officials say that there are approximately 50,000 houses in Arab communities that have no construction permits.

Among the recommendations of regulations that should be enforced are those pertaining to house demolitions in the eastern side of Jerusalem. According to the recommendations, authorities are to refrain from demolitions in eastern Jerusalem only when there is “political or other sensitivity”. The act of refraining to demolish the specified building will require the approval of the attorney general.

Local authorities will now be required to follow up on illegal construction by means of a “standing enforcement committee.” The committee will consist of police and other enforcement officials as well as representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority.

Enforcement committees will be the ones who are tasked with mapping existing structures for demolition as well as prioritizing which demolition orders are carried out first.

According to Haaretz, other recommendations included the increasing of the use of fines for illegal construction as well issuing police summons for alleged offenders if the demolition orders are not carried out.

The data presented by the panel, showed that more than 700 stop-construction and demolition orders are submitted per year to the national unit for enforcing building and planning regulations. While only an approximate 160 demolitions are carried out.

The acceptance of the committee’s recommendation by the attorney general brought harsh criticism from Joint Arab List lawmakers. The Joint List MKs accused Weinstein of playing into the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister recently announced that his groundbreaking five-year plan to earmark greater funding for Arab communities “could not move ahead” if the enforcement of illegal building laws in those communities was not increased.