'Time to crack down on illegal Arab construction'

Overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews back decision to crack down on rampant illegal construction in the Arab sector.

David Rosenberg ,

Home demolition
Home demolition
Sliman Khader/FLASH90

The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews say Israel should do more to enforce the law against illegally built structures in the Arab sector, a new poll says.

According to a survey conducted by Tel Aviv University in conjunction with the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center, 71.0% of Israeli Jews say they support the Prime Minister’s push to increase enforcement of building laws against illegal construction in Arab communities.

In December, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed law enforcement officials to crack down on illegal structures in Arab towns across the Galilee, Negev, and eastern Jerusalem.

“There will be no double standards regarding construction,” said Netanyahu. “There will be equal enforcement of the law in Israel for both Jews and are Arabs.”

The shift ends decades of lax enforcement against illegal construction in Arab communities, where demolition orders are rarely issued, much less carried out.

A month after Netanyahu ordered police to enforce building codes in Arab towns, authorities carried out a demolition of several buildings in the illegal Bedouin settlement of Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev.

During the demolition, Yakoub Al-Kiyan, an educator with ties to the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, murdered police officer Erez Levy in a ramming attack on police. Al-Kiyan was then eliminated by security forces on the scene.

While few Jewish Israelis (22.2%) doubt the police department’s description of the attack, a whopping 80.1% of Israeli Arabs said they do not believe Al-Kiyan carried out a terror attack, or that Levy’s death was intentional. Only 6.4% of Israeli Arabs said they believed the official version of the events at Umm Al-Hiran.

The poll also found that 37.1% of Israeli Jews favor annexing Judea and Samaria, compared to 53.4% who say they oppose annexation. Among Israeli Arabs, 15.1% said they supported annexing Judea and Samaria.

Were Israel to annex those areas, few Israeli Jews believe full citizenship should be extended to the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria. Only 24.5% said residents of the Palestinian Authority ought to be given citizenship in the case of annexation, while 29.8% said they should be given residency status – like most Arabs in eastern Jerusalem – which permits freedom of travel but does not extend the right to vote. In addition, 31.5% of Israeli Jews said PA residents should be given no new status in the case of annexation.

Israeli Jews were roughly equally divided as to whether the government should lift the partial construction freeze on Judea and Samaria now that Donald Trump has taken office.

Almost half (45.3%) said Israel should significantly expand construction across Judea and Samaria following Trump’s inauguration, while 50.0% said Israel should not.