Hostile Takeover: Regavim’s latest report exposes the Palestinian Authority’s systematic but silent plan, powered by massive European Union financial support: Strategically-positioned agricultural land-seizure projects covering tens of thousands of dunams of land in areas under full Israeli jurisdiction are creating irreversible facts on the ground. Large-scale planting, creation of irrigation systems, and an enormous network of illegal roads are carving up the open spaces in Judea and Samaria and drawing the borders of a de facto Palestinian state in Israel’s heartland – in flagrant violation of the law.
Since 2009, the Palestinian Authority has been making methodical progress toward the unilateral creation of a Palestinian state by means of large-scale land theft. Regavim’s newly-released report provides details of this hostile takeover of territory, and reveals the primary tactic employed since 2013: Agricultural land-seizure. As opposed to illegal construction, agricultural use is a quick and convenient method of annexing very large tracts of land, under the guise of innocuous “humanitarian aid.”
Under the system of law in force in Judea and Samaria, agricultural use of land affords rights akin to outright ownership – effectively enabling poached land to be transferred quickly and irrevocably to private Arab hands. This explains the intensive “agricultural” activity orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority in areas surrounding Jewish communities, adjacent to the security fence, and near other strategic assets: The seizure of land in these particular locations interrupts the contiguity of Jewish settlement and annexes a crucial band of territory to Palestinian Authority control.
The modus operandi for these agricultural land-seizures follows a fairly standardized protocol of operating procedures: Access to the area slated for seizure is established by creating new “agricultural” roads; irrigation networks made up of kilometers of pipes, hundreds of cisterns and water collection devices, and hundreds water tanks are dispersed over massive tracts of open space. The next stage involves seizing control of tens of thousands of dunams of uncultivated land through agricultural take-overs: Mass-scale tree-planting campaigns, plowing and planting crops, constructing hothouses, building terracing and fences, and more – all on land that belongs to the State of Israel. From 2013 through 2017, hundreds of agricultural land-seizure sites have been created using these methods, accessed by more than 150 new roads covering hundreds of kilometers.
Research conducted by Regavim in cooperation with Ad Kan, exposes the central role in this systematic program played by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a quasi-official body with very clear organizational ties to the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist terror group dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel that has carried out countless murderous attacks against Israeli citizens – including the assassination of Minister Rehavam Zeevi and a string of suicide bombings). Senior members of the PFLP who served time in Israeli prisons for involvement in terrorism hold top positions in the UAWC.
The UAWC’s publications proudly catalogue its “accomplishments” in recent years: Under the guise of “improving access” to agricultural land, the UAWC has been instrumental in seizing some 150,000 dunams in Area C – most of which are now being cultivated for the first time, and have never been in private Arab hands. These once-pristine tracts of land belong to the State of Israel under international law and according to the Oslo Accords.
The UAWC’s activities are funded, for the most part, by foreign governments, the European Union, and humanitarian aid organizations. Between 2009 and 2017, this funding amounted to at least €45,608,214 (this is a minimum estimate, based on publicly-available data, and does not include other sums donated to the Palestinian Authority for “farming assistance”).
Regavim’s report indicates that the response of the Israeli authorities, including the government, the Civil Administration, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been extremely phlegmatic, and often non-existent. The Civil Administration, which is responsible for the protection of Israel’s land resources in Area C, addresses this illegal activity on a case by case basis, and for all intents and purposes does not take steps to stem the tide of creeping annexation or to restore the status quo ante.
The same is true of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Either due to a failure to grasp the strategic threat this activity presents, or in the interest in maintaining a façade of containment of the conflict – and despite the fact that the senior Foreign Ministry officials are aware that the EU’s activities in Area C are illegal – no diplomatic steps have been taken to block foreign financing, oversight, or involvement in this activity.
The findings outlined in Regavim’s report illustrate the need for swift and decisive action on the part of the Israeli government to combat the strategic ramifications of the “Roots Project.” This systematic program of agricultural annexation cannot be addressed through localized, per-case enforcement activity. Therefore, Regavim’s report includes recommendations that address both the “forest” and the “trees”: Decisive policy and enforcement activity, coupled with a systemic approach to the strategic threat.
If the government of Israel does not move quickly, the Palestinian Authority’s program of agricultural annexation will create irreversible facts on the ground.
Click to view the full report.