N. Kahn. Later referred me to an article in Haaretz. I have posted it at the bottom of this article.
By Ted Belman (Aug 28, 2023)
Illegal Arab construction is rampant in parts of Judea and Samaria that are supposed to be under Israeli control.
After the formation of this government, Netanyahu tweeted:
“The situation in which Palestinians run amok with illegal construction in an attempt to establish facts on the ground – is over.”
Makom Rishon published on Jan 23, 2023 an article in Hebrew titled To stop illegal Palestinian construction, Netanyahu needs to change the policy, which read:
“In the past, a first source document was revealed detailing the priorities of the Civil Administration regarding the destruction of buildings in Judea and Samaria. The document is divided into two different lists of enforcement checks; One of “enforcement priorities in the Palestinian sector”, and the other of “enforcement priorities in the Israeli sector”. The priorities document was recently delivered to the Regavim movement by the Civil Administration, in response to a query it submitted on the subject, and in fact confirmed its suspicions of official discrimination on the matter.
“After receiving the document, the movement petitioned the High Court through attorney Boaz Arzi. “The fact that there is no synchronization of the lists into a single list results in selective and unequal enforcement,” asserts Attorney Arzi. “This allows the enforcement agencies to avoid upholding the planning and construction law in the Arab sector, while relying on the claim of ‘priorities’ that will be attributed to this lack of action.”
“According to the manager’s distinctions, the enforcement of the law regarding Jews in the case of buildings defined as a “danger to the security of the area, public peace or public order” or used as a hostel for such activity, is placed fourth in the order of priorities in the Israeli sector – but does not exist at all in the Arab sector. Moreover, “Israeli construction while encroaching on private land” is a high priority, while “Arab construction carried out while encroaching on private land” is at the bottom of the priority list.
“The document also shows that new illegal construction receives a high enforcement priority in the Israeli sector, but the enforcement priorities in the Arab sector do not refer to new construction at all.
“Another difference that exists between the parties is the nature of the illegal construction. Among Jews, it is often pergolas, tents and tin buildings, while for Palestinians, construction is the construction of large and significant permanent structures. As a result, a tin structure or pile of plywood that boys build on a hill in Samaria, is in fact – neither by mistake nor by fault – a more effective and faster response than the construction of a Palestinian school on land belonging to the Herodion Reserve in Gush Etzion.”
Then, on July 17, 2023, Haaretz published, Smotrich to Allow Israel to Demolish Palestinian Construction in A. B and C :
““We really hope that we will finish this work within a month, get it validated by the prime minister and bring it to the cabinet,” he said. Smotrich said that according to the plan, the state will declare activities by the Palestinian Authority as foreign hostile activity, with the goal also being to confiscate funds from the PA. The remarks were made in the context of a discussion regarding construction initiated by the PA.”
Actually there are two problems here
- demolishing the 80,000 illegally constructed units
- Stopping new illegal construction
I asked Naomi Kahn, Director of the International Division of Regavim, what is going on? She replied,
“You are asking the right questions: why isn’t the government using the legal and administrative tools at its disposal to protect our national interests and uphold the international treaty it signed? Why is it turning a blind eye to massive foreign interference in this matter, and allowing European funding to change the map of Judea and Samaria? Why has the government failed to act on its declaration that it would demolish illegal structures that pose a security risk – no matter where in Judea and Samaria they are located?
“These aren’t questions I can answer. They are the questions at the heart of Regavim’s legal and lobbying activities, the very questions that arise from the data we collect in the field and the analysis of the bigger picture of Israel’s rights and jurisdiction, sovereignty and security.”
If she can’t answer, who can?
Naomi referred me to this Feb 23, 2023 Haaretz article;
Far-right Smotrich Gets Authority Over West Bank Policy, Outpost Eviction Left to Israeli Army
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich will be in charge of most of the Civil Administration -Israel’s governing body in the West Bank – according to a new deal brokered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday between the far right lawmaker and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
According to the agreement, Smotrich, who was granted the status of a minister in the Defense Ministry during coalition negotiations, will also be in charge of the department that oversees enforcement of construction laws in the West Bank.
However, the Israel Defense Forces can utilize that department against construction that would be defined as both “new and invasive” and as being “urgent in a security context,” though the army would need to give Smotrich notice of any intent to evict homes.
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The agreement states that any activity that is under the authority of Smotrich but requires army assistance to be carried out, would “take place while keeping with the army’s chain of command, contingent on the security situation and after receiving approval from the commander of Central Command.”
In the event of a disagreement between Gallant and Smotrich regarding evictions, Netanyahu will settle the dispute.
Another part of the agreement allows Gallant to overrule any decision made by Smotrich if he sees fit to do so. In order to successfully overrule a decision, Gallant would need to provide a reason in writing after hearing Smotrich’s position on the matter.
If a decision is overruled, Gallant would not be allowed to pass the overruling order directly, and instead Smotrich would need to do it.
The agreement also states that Smotrich will create a so-called Settlement Administration, that will be in charge of improving services and infrastructure in West Bank settlements.
The deal also gives Smotrich the authority to name another deputy to the Civil Administration, who be a civilian contractor in the IDF, and Netanyahu would need to approve his nomination.
In terms of the chain of command, the deputy would answer to the head of the Civil Administration (who is a high-ranking IDF officer), while professionally being subordinate to the Settlement Administration. The IDF see this part of the agreement as an achievement since the deputy would not be allowed to appoint officers under him.
In response to the international community’s concern that shuffling around the authority over the West Bank would be de facto annexation, both Smotrich and Gallant agreed that “nothing in this document changes the legal status of the West Bank, the laws applied within, or the government’s authority over it.”