The Real Illegal Settlements

by Bassam Tawil, GATESTONE INSTITUTE


An example of massive illegal Palestinian construction near Shufat and Anata, on the northeastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

  • While construction in Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.
  • The Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union, are behind the Palestinian initiative.
  • The Jewish outpost of Amona, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. Apparently, settlements are only a “major obstacle to peace” when they are constructed by Jews.
  • The EU and some Islamic governments and organizations are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.
  • The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media, who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.

As the international community continues to slam Israel for construction in Jewish settlement communities, Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighborhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In addition to overlooking the Palestinian building project, the West has clearly been neglecting a crucial difference between the two efforts: while the construction in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.

In this behind-the-scenes endeavor, which does not meet even the most minimum standards required by engineers, architects and housing planners, the Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground.

A quick tour of the areas surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south easily exposes the colossal construction that is taking place there. In most cases, these high-rise buildings are slapped together without licenses or any adequate planning or safety concerns.

The Jewish outpost of Amona in the central West Bank, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. In 2006, the High Court of Israel ruled that the outpost is illegal under Israeli law because it lies on private Palestinian land. In 2014, the High Court ordered the government to evacuate and demolish the entire outpost within two years.

In Israel, as Amona demonstrates, no one is above the law. Israel boasts an independent judiciary system that is second to none.

Yet as the debate in Israel intensifies over the fate of Amona, the Palestinians are making a mockery of laws and building regulations by embarking on massive construction of illegal neighborhoods and buildings. Apparently, settlements are only a “major obstacle to peace” when they are constructed by Jews.

In recent years and continuing to the present, the Palestinians, with the aid of Western donors for whom only Jewish construction is anathema, are working night and day to create irreversible facts in the form of not just single-family houses, but masses of giant high-rise buildings. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union are behind the Palestinian initiative.

Ironically, this has been taking place even when it means that the Palestinians have been stealing land from our own people.

The Palestinian building is taking place mostly in what is called Area C of the West Bank, which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is supposed to be under exclusive Israeli control. The building has also been mushrooming in many neighborhoods — even in entire villages — surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south, leaving the city with only one option: to expand towards the west, thereby building a giant collar of cement effectively to surround and choke off Jerusalem from the Jews.

Recently, entire Arab neighborhoods with crowded high-rises have shot up around Jerusalem. Only a handful of steps separate some of the buildings, and most lack proper sewage systems. Apartment prices range from $25,000 to $50,000 USD. These are ridiculous prices compared with the real costs of apartments in both Arab and Jewish (legal) neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Today, it is almost impossible to purchase a three-room apartment in the city for less than $250,000 USD.

The new neighborhoods are located in Kufr Akab, Samiramis, Kalandya, Beit Hanina, Shufat, Ras Khamis and Anata in the north of Jerusalem.

In the southern and eastern parts of the city, new neighborhoods have emerged with noticeable suddenness in Ras Al-Amoud, A-Tur, Al-Zaim, Jabal Mukaber, Um Tuba and Jabal Mukaber. These areas fall within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. However, failing to halt the illegal construction and leaving the city besieged from north, east and south, Jerusalem Municipality officials admit that Israel will have lost the war against illegal Palestinian construction unless immediate action is taken.

Alarmed by the ongoing illegal construction, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently took the unprecedented measure of petitioning the High Court to allow the city to demolish 14 illegally built structures in east Jerusalem.

Most importantly, there is no housing crisis for the Arab population; it is not an Arab housing crisis that is prompting this spree of illegal Palestinian construction. Rather, the goal is political: to show the world that Jerusalem is an Arab, and not a Jewish, city. By and large, the apartments remain empty: there is simply no real demand.

Who is behind the unprecedented wave of illegal construction? According to Arab residents of Jerusalem, many of the “contractors” are actually land-thieves and thugs who lay their hands on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad. But they also point out that the EU, the PLO and some Arab and Islamic governments are funding the project.

“They spot an empty plot of land and quickly move in to seize control over it,” said a resident whose land was “confiscated” by the illegal contractors.

“They tell you if you don’t like it, go to court, knowing that by the time the legal procedures are over they would have succeeded in building another tall building and even selling some of the apartments.

“Many Arab land owners feel helpless. They tell us that it is their national duty to build as much as they can on any empty land, otherwise the Jews would be building there.”

Palestinians estimate that in the past few years they have managed to build more than 15,000 illegal housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. The construction continues to this moment, unabated. Partial funding comes from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and some Arab and Islamic countries These countries include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other oil-rich countries in the Gulf. However, the Palestinians continue to complain that the Arab and Islamic funding is below expectations.

In Area C, a stretch of land accounting for 60% of the West Bank, the European Union, which bitterly condemns construction in Jewish settlements as illegal, openly funds illegal construction carried out by Palestinians. The EU argues that its support for Palestinian construction falls under the category of “humanitarian relief” and is permissible under international law.

The EU’s real goal is to help the Palestinians create these irreversible facts on the ground ahead of any possible future peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel. It is aimed at facilitating the mission of the Palestinians to seize as much land as possible, even if that means funding illegal construction or providing mobile homes to Palestinian communities in this area.

In short, it is the EU and some Arabs and Muslims who are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.

The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media — those dozens of correspondents who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.

Forty-two Jewish families in Amona have the world riveted, but what does the world think about the Palestinian land-grab? It is time to call out this treachery, this illegality and this double-standard, and demand that the Palestinians also cease the construction of illegal settlements, which are designed with one aim in mind: to pre-determine the outcome of any future peace deal.

Bassam Tawil is based in the Middle East.

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14 Comments / 14 Comments

  1. MELECH david

    I’ve asked this before ‘whose supplying services?’ water, hydro, gas, garbage pick up, drainage, etc. trucks bringing in cement, bricks, cranes, glass etc. cannot be appearing on the back of mohams ass during an overnight visit. SOME real dirty stuff within the current ISRAELI govt. allows this.

  2. Dean Blake

    It will be a real test of the Israeli judicial system for the courts to order all destruction of these 14 illegal buildings. Since they don’t have and probably can’t meet code requirements, they really do need to be demonlished. Outside money came in, but there was no supervision, it’s really a ‘Potempkin villiage’ for these ‘structure’s to exist and that was their purpose from the point of view of the contractors. The politicians and NGOs funded this to create fraudulent Arab Jerusalem citizens anticipating ‘Internationalization’ of Jerusalem. Like Triest and Brest, that internationalization will not happen.

  3. bernard ross

    Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighborhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

    are folks saying that mossad and shin bet intelligence services are unaware of this… are they saying that netanyahu, mandebilt and the High court are unaware of this?
    Its obvious that netanyahu, the DM the high court are in collusion with this under the table agenda. LOL, Israelis whine and wail about the foreigners and the pals but dont ask their elected leaders why they are allowing this. In fact, knowing this after reading one article, and having no access to the famed Israeli intelligence service which likely stumbled over this info sometime in the last 8 years…… after this it becomes obvious that the High Court drama is a complete fabrication of the GOI and the High Court to deceive the Israeli public with a trivial red herring of Amona… they are doing this to distract Israelis from their treasonous and criminal collusion with the enemy.
    Is anyone seriously asserting that the GOI, the DM, the High Court, the President.. did not know that this heinous activity was proceeding…. is anyone seriously asserting that they are all NOT in collusion and facilitating this activity?
    Imagine that… now we know why the high court always rubber stamps the evictions of Jews… This appears to me to be a treasonous act on the part of leadership and courts.
    It is impossible that all of them are totally incompetent.

  4. esther noodelman

    I am speechless and angry and heartbroken that our own government is complicit in giving our own land to our enemies while our own people are continually denied access to building much needed by their growing communities !!
    Disgusting!

  5. Raphael

    The government is undoubtedly aware that illegal Palestinian settlements are being funded by the EU, PLO and other entities, so who are they not shouting this out from the rooftops, and introducing similar measures to the UN Security Council to counter Kerry and Obama? You can’t defend yourself by staying quiet, and that is what Israel does…but WHY?

  6. xxx

    The Arab dogs have just performed another miracle, similar to their pedophile’s flight to Jerusalem…. They have made all the activity re the building of these massive projects…..INVISIBLE to tje Jewish Government as a whole or in any of it’s parts.

    A modern day miracle. What is another miracle, is that even a totally blind person, withput eyes even, can see that this is going on, only the Israeli government can’t..or won’t or…is implicitely involved.

  7. Avigail

    We are governed by the Erev Rav. End of story.

  8. With a bit of help from their friends in Europe

  9. stevenl

    Why did Israel allow these constructions? A false qui pro quo with the EU!

  10. Dean Blake

    I wonder if this ‘Potempkin Villiage’ of pre-ordained wrecks is meant to be destroyed in exchange for Israel ALSO destroying, and leaving, certain areas? Arabs just want to do it on the cheap. Selling these ‘flats’ for $25k comes with Jerusalem citizenship and residency and is being used to ‘tip’ Jerusalem’s demography more favorable to the Arabs. Israeli politicians are probably waiting for favorable political ‘winds’ to address this incursion.

  11. 1DavidKA

    If this construction is illegal, why doesn’t Bibi attack it, esp in defense of jewish settlements?

  12. Morty Mooze

    @ MELECH david:
    Will the situation change after January 20?

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