Illegal Bedouin construction
Illegal Bedouin construction Israel news photo: Flash 90

There is an ongoing coordinated effort among Palestinian Arabs to take over Israeli-owned land in Judea and Samaria (Shomron), a senior Civil Authority official warned Tuesday.

“Over the past two to three years, there’s been a battle for Area C,” said Marco Ben-Shabbat. “It’s not like what we saw before, with a single Palestinian building a private home illegally. It is much more organized.”

Ben-Shabbat indicated that those establishing illegal communities in Area C are receiving orders from above, but declined to say who was behind the campaign.

Other senior sources in Judea and Samaria (Shomron) told Arutz Sheva that Ben-Shabbat was referring to senior officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA has signed on agreements giving Israel control in Area C – Israeli communities and other Israeli-owned land in Judea and Samaria – but in practice, insists that any Israeli presence in the area is “occupation.”

Ben-Shabbat’s statements were made during a meeting of a subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The meeting saw the legal system, and the Supreme Court in particular, criticized for its approach to illegal construction in the region. Criticism came not only from MKs on the political right, but also from officials tasked with law enforcement.

Representatives from the Civil Administration said Supreme Court rulings had left them with their hands tied. Major Yotam Har-Tzion of the IDF prosecution was openly critical, saying, “The best insurance for a Palestinian who built his home illegally is to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Har-Tzion explained that if the Civil Administration issues demolition orders for an illegally built home on Israeli land, the Palestinian Arabs who built it may ask the Supreme Court to delay implementation of the orders in order to allow them to appeal. The court almost always grants such requests, thus allowing the land takeover to continue, he said.

MK Orit Struck (Jewish Home) was skeptical, suggesting that the Civil Administration has the tools it needs to fight illegal construction, but is reluctant to do so for political reasons.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) said that much of the illegal construction is funded by foreign parties, and suggested that the phenomenon should be addressed through legislation.