Illegal structure in Har Gilo
Illegal structure in Har GiloIsrael news photo: Dov Barak

A massive, illegally built structure being put up by Palestinian Authority Arabs has frightened residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood Har Gilo in recent weeks. The building has been built on Israeli land belonging to the city, and looms over local houses.

The building's height and location have created fears that it could be used for sniping or other attacks. Jewish residents of the area suffered near-constant sniper attacks during the outbreak of the Oslo War, also known as the Second Intifada.

Following appeals from Israeli officials in the Gush Etzion region, the Civil Administration issued an order halting work on the structure until a hearing regarding the legal status of the building. However, work at the site has continued despite the order.

Residents of Har Gilo say Civil Administration officials told them that the order could not be enforced due to the Fatah conference currently taking place in the nearby city of Bethlehem.

Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, called on the state and the IDF to avoid unequal enforcement of building laws, and to crack down on PA construction on Israeli land as quickly as they crack down on unauthorized Jewish construction on Israeli land.

Regevim: Stop Discrimination

The Regevim organization has filed an appeal with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, asking him to look into discrimination against Jews when it comes to enforcement of building codes in “Area C” -- parts of Judea and Samaria that are under full Israeli control under agreements between Israel and the PA.

When a Jew is found to have built a structure in Area C without approval, the structure is demolished almost immediately, the group argues. However, when a PA Arab builds illegally in the same area, any subsequent demolition order is protested with help from leftist groups, and a lengthy court case commences.

It often takes years until illegal Arab homes are finally destroyed, while in the meantime, the builders benefit from having broken the law by living rent-free on Israeli land, petitioners argue. Due to the time-intensive nature of the process, the Civil Administration has not bothered to issue demolition orders for thousands of illegal Arab buildings, they say, knowing that the buildings will not be destroyed in any case.