The new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu was elected just in time to thwart an illegal land grab by the Arabs in Judea and Samaria. Thankfully, the new coalition has made this issue a priority. It’s about time.
The government is to be commended for the recent demolition of illegal Arab outposts in Wadi Rahhal and Irtas in the Gush Etzion area. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Illegal Arab construction has been going on for years in Jerusalem and Area C of Judea and Samaria. This is despite the fact that, according to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Area C is under complete Israeli control.
The Arabs have plenty of land to build legal structures in Areas A and B, which are respectively under total and partial control of the Palestinian Authority. The Arabs unilaterally decided to violate the Oslo agreements and build illegally in Area C. Unfortunately, the previous governing coalition, which included the Arab Ra’am Party, turned a blind eye to this illegal construction.
In 2009, then-P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid out a plan to create a de facto P.A. state, not through negotiations but through illegal building in Area C. The goal was to create a contiguous terrorist entity.
According to the NGO Regavim, illegal Arab construction increased by 80% in 2022. 5,535 illegal structures were built that year compared to 3,076 structures in 2021. Overall, the Arabs have built 81,317 illegal structures covering 38,000 acres. This is twice the land mass now populated by Israeli Jews. It is a ticking time bomb that is about to explode.
Make no mistake, these illegal structures are not makeshift shacks. They are palatial residences, resorts, amusement parks and high-rise buildings. Some are entire villages. Unless they are demolished, many of the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria will be strangled.
In Jerusalem, the situation is just as bad. Nature reserves have been taken over and illegal buildings have been constructed. Over 6,000 illegal homes have been built by Arabs in Jerusalem over four years. Only 200 have been demolished.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured in from the P.A. and various Arab countries to finance illegal construction in Jerusalem and Area C. Unless Israelis wake up in time, much of Israel will have been snatched from under their noses. This is a shame that must be rectified.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.