The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, headed by MK Mordhay Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi), last Week held a discussion regarding illegal construction in Area C, where Chairman Yogev stated that the problem of illegal construction in Area C of Judea and Samaria had intensified. He further mentioned the State Comptroller’s report on this issue, which indicates that the rate of illegal Palestinian construction is three times greater than that of illegal Jewish construction. Demolition orders have been issued to only 10% of illegal structures in the area, Yogev noted.
Under the Oslo agreements, Area C of Judea and Samaria is under full Israeli control.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major-General Yoav Mordechai, said that the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria should enforce real estate laws equally. Figures show that the enforcement of construction-related laws in Judea and Samaria is significantly more extensive compared with other regions in Israel, he told the committee. “Unfortunately, past committees were presented with partial and biased data, and it was said that Civil Administration employees have an agenda and tend to enforce more against Israelis,” Mordechai conceded.
However, Mordechai insisted, “I’ve examined every demolition over the past two years, and I can say with certainty that demolition orders are issued for every illegal structure and that we are carrying out the demolitions equally. Since there is more illegal Palestinian construction, there are more demolitions.”
Avivit Bar-Ilan, director of the Department for European Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mentioned that the issue of illegal construction in Judea and Samaria has been discussed routinely with the EU over the past two years. “Our position, as presented to the EU, is that all structures which are built without prior coordination are illegal and should be destroyed,” she said. “We do not accept [the EU’s] interpretation that [the construction is part of the humanitarian aid given to the Arabs], but it must be stressed that there is a dispute here regarding the interpretation of international law. Dialogue on this issue is intensifying in Brussels, and we estimate that it will continue to grow.”
Meir Deutsch from the Regavim movement said, “We identify a fixed pattern in which the EU transfers funds to the Palestinian Authority, which then carries out the [construction] while focusing on strategic areas – including the building of roads across Judea and Samaria towards Jordan.”
Subcommittee Chairman Yogev concluded the debate by saying that land in Judea and Samaria is a vital resource. “The state must preserve its land and its responsibility over it, and not allow the EU to do as it pleases. Construction and infrastructure terrorism exists throughout Judea and Samaria, with the funding of countries whose goal is to affect the reality here. We must lead the policy rather than be led.”
The Foreign Ministry, Yogev stressed, “must be more firm in its dealings with the EU, and the entire political echelon must think carefully whether the State of Israel is handling this challenge with the proper tools.”