Over the past few years, European countries, European NGO’s and international support organizations have carried out at least 200 illegal building projects in Area C of Judea and Samaria, reports Makor Rishon. This is referring to construction of public buildings (schools and mosques), paving of roads, installing electrical equipment, and appropriating State owned land.
Most of these illegal actions have been conducted by non-governmental organizations supported by European governments, however in some of the instances it is being done by direct agents of the countries themselves.
All this construction activity is taking place in Area C, which is under the complete rule of the State of Israel, without specified plans and without permits from the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. And this is in addition to the multitude of construction and development projects in Areas A and B, where, according to the Oslo Accords, the planning and construction control is under the Palestinian Authority.
Political sources point out that recently there has been a considerable increase in European attempts to carry out illegal construction projects, and in the past few months alone there have been 33 law enforcement actions taken against these projects. Among them have been the confiscation of many tents, equipment and portable structures; buildings have been destroyed and trucks with building material have been captured.
It is important to note that the facts that were mentioned in the Makor Rishon report relate only to instances where law enforcement action has been taken, so that it is possible that there are construction projects which are completely unknown to the authorities.
There are many cases, as well, where the Civil Administration is prevented from enforcing the law due to Supreme Court orders, or because of political pressure applied by the international community. The main areas where the illegal construction takes place are in the southern Mount Hebron area, in the Jordan Valley, and in the area surrounding East Jerusalem.
For example, five trucks were confiscated on the Hizma-Mishor Adumim highway, and a large number of Bedouin tents were confiscated in an areas which foreign organizations were clearly trying to turn those tents into permanent settlements. In Fire Zone 904 in Samaria, tents donated by the Red Cross were confiscated. Next to the village of Tubas in the Jordan Valley, the government of Brazil is backing the establishment of a plantation on Israeli government owned land.
In many cases, the international organizations repeatedly break the law even after a law enforcement action has been taken. For example the Civil Administration destroyed an illegal structure near Alfei Menashe, and as a reaction the employees of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a UN support organization, erected caravans next to a sign declaring their responsibility for the action. In southern Mount Hebron, near Khirbet A-Rahowa, OCHA tried to establish a permanent settlement for Palestinian residents. The Civil Administration destroyed the illegal structures, but the organization came back and started to rebuild. In the end, the Administration confiscated the steel for construction, a truck and a few tents.
Political sources informed Makor Rishon that in spite of the fact that non-governmental organizations apparently support these illegal activities, they continue to receive full backing from various governments around the world. For example, Israeli ambassadors in Berlin and Warsaw were “invited” for admonitions in the local Foreign Offices because the Civil Administration destroyed projects that were funded by organizations supported by these governments. Another country that heavily supports illegal land activities is Spain. On another occasion, the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, initiated a telephone conversation with Israeli officials to find out details concerning specific instances of removal of illegal Arab settlements that received press coverage.
In other, less-known incidents, like dismantling of tents and confiscating equipment, the intervention of National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, and even that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netnayahu is required, following requests from foreign governments.
Israeli officials who are experts in these matters point out that the intervention of the government echelon is required because the Europeans and Palestinians apply force in joint pressure against Israel. First, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, and his ministers encourage the illegal construction on behalf of European organizations, then the funding governments apply political pressure on Israel with the intention of preventing the enforcement of the law against such illegal attempts.
The Europeans claim that Israel is deliberately preventing Palestinian construction in Area C because out of a strategic plan to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Nevertheless, in discussions with Israel they don’t say this directly, but instead haggle over technical disagreements. During frequent discussions involving the European diplomats stationed in Israel, Foreign Ministry officials, and the Civil Administration, the Europeans blame the Israeli side for intentionally causing the failure of construction projects for the Palestinians.
Israeli officials are livid about the European position; they describe it as provocative and even hostile, and are especially upset about the purposeful transgression of the law. In continuing disagreements with the Europeans, Israeli officials have said that, among other things, “Even according to your theory that Judea and Samaria are occupied territories, you are still obligated to obey the laws of the occupying country. There is no place in the world where a foreign country supports noncompliance with the local law, even if they don’t accept it.”
These officials further said that during 2011 alone, more than 200 construction projects in Judea and Samaria received permits. “How can the Europeans claim that we are trying to trip hold them?”
The argument between the two sides has been taking place for months, but meanwhile both sides are trying to maintain a low profile. At the same time, in spite of the anger about the European approach, joint work by the sides has started in an attempt to overcome disagreements. During meetings currently taking place between the Foreign Ministry, the Civil Administration, the European political echelon and ambassadors, an infrastructure has been set up whose purpose is to shorten considerably the planning and construction procedures of foreign initiatives in small and medium sized projects.