At a hearing on the “Campaign for Area C” to be held this coming Sunday, the Planning and Licensing Subcommittee of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria is set to consider steps to grant retroactive permission for illegal Palestinian Authority construction projects. Among the projects under consideration are illegal construction in nature reserves, construction on state lands designated for Israeli communities and a series of illegal schools that the P.A. classifies as “confrontation schools in the fight against settlements.”
These projects follow a well-known pattern of development. Immediately after the start of construction at strategic points in Area C—the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction under international law—the P.A. submits a permit request to the Civil Administration, and at the same time, a petition is submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding that enforcement proceedings be suspended until the planning process is completed.
The Civil Administration refrains from any and all enforcement against the illegal structures—allowing construction to continue; by the time the permit request reaches the hearing stage, the structure is built and in use, and the purpose for which it was intended—to create facts on the ground and wrest control of strategic points away from Israeli jurisdiction—is achieved.
For the past two years, the Regavim Movement, which has been at the forefront of the battle against illegal Palestinian construction, has petitioned the court against several cases that are expected to be discussed in the upcoming subcommittee hearing. In each of these cases, the Civil Administration claimed that it intended to enforce the law at the site in question “in accordance with established enforcement priorities”—but it now appears that the Civil Administration intends to take steps to grant retroactive approval to these land grabs, essentially granting the P.A. an uncontested win.
The construction projects slated for this wholesale whitewashing cover some 500 dunams and hundreds of illegal structures, among them an illegal school built in the Nahal Makoch Nature Reserve in eastern Binyamin, an illegal village in northern Samaria dubbed “Daher al-Malek,” built on state land slated for the growth of the Jewish community of Shaked, extensive illegal construction in the village of Walaja adjacent to the Gush Etzion Tunnel Road, illegal projects in the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion and more.
“While with one hand [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu publishes headlines about expanding Jewish settlement with 800 housing units, with his other hand he approves illegal construction plans by the P.A. covering hundreds of dunams,” says Meir Deutsch, director general of Regavim. The strategic implications are clear—and potentially catastrophic: The Jewish settlement enterprise is forced into tiny boxes, while the P.A. takes control of the open spaces, and receives Israeli approval to do so.”
Naomi Kahn is director of the International Division of Regavim, a research-based think tank and lobbying group dedicated to preserving Israel’s resources and sovereignty.