Civil Administration chokes Palestinian construction
For decades, Israel has employed a planning, development, and building policy in the West Bank almost entirely denies Palestinian construction. At the same time, it has allocated broad expanses of land to establish and expand Jewish settlements. Israel has thus created a situation in which thousands of Palestinians are unable to obtain permits to build on their land and provide shelter for their families, leaving them no option but to build without a permit.
In the Oslo Agreements, the West Bank was divided into three areas, Areas A, B, and C . Areas A and B, which comprise 40 percent of West Bank, come within the planning and building authority of the Palestinian Authority. This land, however, is essentially the built-up area of existing towns and villages. Area C, the remaining 60 percent, is wholly controlled by Israel, including planning and building matters. Area C is home to some 150,000 Palestinians, who live in 149 towns and villages, and almost all the land reserves of the Palestinian communities, including those of Areas A and B, are located there. The Civil Administration has adopted a policy not to issue building permits to Palestinians in these areas, and does not provide a planning solution for Palestinian land development.
In recent weeks, the Civil Administration has increased its action against Palestinian building in Area C, contending that the construction was illegal. As noted, building legally is almost impossible for Palestinians. Some examples of the Civil Administration's actions follow.
Al-Birah Stadium, with P'sagot settlement in the background. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 16 November 2009.
In 1996, the municipality of al-Birah, which is located next to Ramallah, built the National Palestinian Stadium on land lying within the municipal borders of the town, but in Area C. In 2006, the stadium was improved and the finishing touches are currently being made to conform it to meet the standard required for international football matches. The stadium, which cost approximately € 3 million, was built with the financial assistance of France, the German Development Bank, the UN Development Agency, and FIFA, the international football federation. In mid-October, the Civil Administration's Supreme Planning Council issued stop-work orders on the construction, an unusual step since the Civil Administration had not previously interfered in the town's planning matters, leaving the municipality the powers to initiate and approve building projects in areas within its borders. Shortly afterwards, the P'sagot settlement, which is situated a few hundred meters from the stadium, and the Regavim Organization petitioned the High Court of Justice. The petitioners demanded that the stadium be demolished, arguing that it had been built without a permit and that it “significantly increases security problems” in the area. The municipality has, for the time being, ceased construction work on the stadium.
In late October, Civil Administration inspectors served stop-work orders on construction work being done on nine houses in Kafr ‘Aqab, a village located north of Jerusalem. 15 families live in the houses. Most of the village lies within the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality, but since that portion lies east of the Separation Barrier, the municipality provides almost no services to the village. The remaining village land lies in Area C. In the same area, the Civil Administration had previously issued stop-work orders on twenty other buildings, and the area contains dozens of other buildings. The Jerusalem Municipality, like the Civil Administration, has never prepared an outline plan enabling development of the village.
Khirbet Umm al-Kheir
Houses designated for demolition in Umm al-Khir. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 19 November 2009.
In early November, Civil Administration inspectors issued 11 stop-work orders on all construction in the Beduin community of Khirbet Umm al-Kheir, which lies in the southern Hebron hills. Residents of the village, most of whom are refugees of 1948, arrived in the village in the 1970s after having been forced to leave their homes in the area of Arad. In 1981, the Carmel settlement was built adjacent to the village. The buildings on which the stop-work orders were issued lie in two sections that border the settlement on the east, and are built on private Palestinian land or on Survey Land (land whose ownership has not been decided). About six months ago, the Civil Administration demolished four sheds and two stone houses in the village.
In mid-November, Civil Administration inspectors issued stop-work orders on 12 structures in Rujeib, a village southeast of Nablus. Five of the homes, which lie on the southern edge of the village, were already inhabited. Another six, and a chicken coop, were under construction.
The Civil Administration's intensive enforcement activity violates Israel's obligation, as the occupying power, to meet the planning needs of the Palestinians, and breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention, which permits the occupying power to destroy the property of civilians only when an imperative military need exists.