Over the past three decades of occupation, Israel has employed in the West Bank a policy of planning, development, and building that severely restricts construction by Palestinians while allocating broad expanses of land to establish and expand Jewish settlements. In this way, Israel has created a situation in which thousands of Palestinians are unable to obtain permits to build on their land, and are compelled to build without a permit because they have no other way to provide shelter for their families.
Israel froze planning in Palestinian towns and villages. The existing planning schemes, which date back fifty years and more, serve as the basis for approval - more often rejection - of applications for building permits. Land registration has been frozen for thirty years, making it easy to deny applications for permits on the grounds of failure to prove ownership of the land. Israel administers the building authorities, which have no Palestinian representation. A Palestinian wanting to obtain a building permit to build on his land in Area C [that part of the West Bank which remains under complete Israeli control] must undergo a prolonged, complicated, and expensive procedure which generally results in denial of the application.
In this situation, and with no option, many Palestinians are compelled to build without a permit. The construction is not a political act or an act of protest. Rather, the construction is the only way left to them to provide housing for themselves and their families.
Rather than change this situation, Israel has adopted a policy of mass demolition of Palestinian houses. In the past ten years, the authorities have demolished more than 2,200 residences, leaving more than 13,000 Palestinians homeless. This policy continues today in Area C.
At the same time, at least 155 Israeli settlements, containing more than 170,000 Jewish Israeli citizens, have been established. These settlements benefit from an efficient system of planning and supervision of construction, and establishment of comprehensive planning schemes for all the settlements. Despite this, thousands of houses were built in these settlements without permits. Israel refrained from demolishing these houses, and instead issued retroactive building permits for thousand of houses constructed without permits. This building-permit policy blatantly discriminates between settlers and Palestinians.
Planning and building is a purely civilian matter. The military authorities have the right to intervene in planning and building only where patently military matters are involved. Conversely, individuals have a basic right to be involved in determining the future of their surroundings, including the right to elect and direct the planning and building authorities, and occupation cannot justify denial of this right.