Photo Credit: Regavim
Aerial view of Illegal PA construction in Area C, in the Gush Etzion Arab village of Nahalin. May 2020

The European Union (EU) has invested half a billion dollars in support of the Palestinian Authority’s illegal takeover of Area C in Judea and Samaria, a comprehensive report by the Ministry of Intelligence on the PA’s plan to take over Area C shows.

The report was exposed Tuesday ahead of a special discussion at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the initiative of the Land of Israel Lobby, which members are warning that “the battle for Judea and Samaria has reached a critical stage.”

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According to the report, the PA employs about 600 workers in some 100 registration branches who are engaged in a huge project to map properties, including in Area C, which is under full Israeli control as per the Oslo Accords. The stated goal of the project is gaining and claiming ownership of the land.

The mapping project, which gained momentum in 2019 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, is sometimes carried out with threats to landowners, and includes IDF camps and training zones, and Israeli communities.

According to the Israeli report, “in the absence of an alternative (Israeli) registration arrangement, there is a good chance that at one point or another, the courts in Israel or around the world will adopt the Palestinian registration.”

The report further revealed that the PA planning project is being carried out with the funding of foreign bodies, and PA officials attend all meetings and ensure plans are in line with the PA’s “national interests.”

The method is aimed at creating an overload at the IDF’s Civil Administration, to prevent its ability to deal with a wave of referrals and requests, and to take advantage of the Civil Administration’s directive to stop enforcement proceedings wherever a plan for the property in question has been filed.

The report highlights the legal battle that the PA is waging “on every house and every dunam,” amounting to 475 petitions submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice in just two years. The policy is to flood the system with petitions in a number that does not enable substantive legal procedures, and produces compromises between the parties, according to which the petitions are withdrawn in exchange for an Israeli commitment not to demolish the PA-built and European-financed illegal buildings.

This is a method that aims to nullify the ability to act against the takeover, the report underscores.

The heads of the Land of Israel Lobby in the Knesset who initiated the discussion, Members of Knesset Orit Strock and Yoav Kish, stated that “the battle for Judea and Samaria has reached its critical stage. After many years of neglect by Israel, the situation has changed for the worse, and in recent months the Civil Administration, under the guidance of the Minister of Defense [Benny Gantz], and with the entire coalition turning a blind eye, is working for the benefit of the Palestinian interest and against the Israeli interest.”

“After many efforts by the Land of Israel Lobby, the subject of the battle for Area is coming up for discussion in the Knesset. We will make every effort to lead to a change in the Israeli conduct on the issue, and to begin conducting an Israeli campaign in the face of the dangerous Palestinian campaign,” they stated.

The Regavim Movement, which combats illegal takeover of state lands, recently revealed new mapping data on the frightening scope of the phenomenon, including the extent of illegal Arab construction in the area.

Between the years 2019-2021, the Arabs built 5,097 new illegal structures, in areas under the full control of the State of Israel. This means that every day, about seven new illegal buildings are added to the area. The total number of illegal Arab buildings in Area C is 72,274.

At the same time, a PA-guided agricultural takeover of 7,125 dunams of land under Israeli control was recorded during this two-year period, reaching a total of 93,071 dunams.

Israel has rapidly been losing lands in area C to European Union-funded illegal construction projected executed by the PA.

In 2009, then-prime minister of the PA Salaam Fayyad laid out the Plan for the Creation of the State of Palestine, a methodical program for seizing control of territory in Area C, under full Israeli control as prescribed by the Oslo Accords, to form a broad and viable basis for a Palestinian state, specifically in the areas under Israeli control.

Fayyad’s plan essentially bypasses all negotiations or compromises with Israel and creates facts on the ground.

While serving as Defense Minister in 2019, Naftali Bennett threatened to demolish any illegal Arab construction in Area C, even if it was funded by the EU.

In response to an inquiry on the issue by TPS, a senior official in the Defense Ministry stated that the “phenomenon of illegal Palestinian construction in Area C is one of the main issues that Defense Minister Bennett is dealing with, and he has already begun to work to eradicate the phenomenon.”

At his meeting with EU ambassadors in December 2019, Bennet told the ambassadors that “illegal construction in their financing would be destroyed by Israel” and made it clear that “his position on the issue was unequivocal.”

However, he has failed to act on his pledges.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.