Planning and construction policy in the settlements

23 Oct 2013

Expansion of the Settlement of Beit Aryeh in Ramallah district. Photo: Ahmad al-Bazz, Activestills
Expansion of the Settlement of Beit Aryeh in Ramallah district. Photo: Ahmad al-Bazz, Activestills

In contrast to the restrictive planning policy followed for Palestinian communities, Israeli settlements - all located within Area C - enjoy expansive allocations of land, detailed planning, hookup to advanced infrastructure and a blind eye regarding illegal construction.

After the occupation of the West Bank by Israel in 1967, the military issued an order that left the Palestinians out of the planning process, a process they had been a party to. The same order enables the activity of planning committees in the settlements. The settlers, unlike the Palestinians, enjoy full representation in planning processes. For the benefit of settlements, the Civil Administration changed the land designation in the Mandate-era plans: nearly all West Bank settlements were erected on tracts of land designated as agricultural in the Mandatory plans. Nonetheless, over the years, the Civil Administration planning authorities approved hundreds of new master plans that changed the zoning, thereby enabling the establishment of settlements. In most cases, construction in settlements was approved retroactively, or else by military order. The Civil Administration also approved the establishment of small settlements numbering only a few dozen or a few hundred settlers when founded, as well as approving settlements located just a few kilometers away from existing ones. In dozens of cases, the Civil Administration approved construction of Israeli settlements at archeological sites and on nature reserves inside the borders of the settlements. According to Civil Administration data, in about 75% of settlements, construction was carried out without appropriate permits.

Whereas, from 2002 through 2010, only 176 construction permits were issued to Palestinians, at least 15,000 residential units were built in settlements during that same period, with or without permits. In contrast to the partial and restrictive planning for Palestinian communities in Area C, for the settlements in that same area, detailed modern plans were drafted that featured public spaces, parks or commons, and in many instances low housing density. Unlike the plans designating and limiting the built-up areas of those few Palestinian villages for which plans were drafted at all, the jurisdictional boundaries of the Israeli settlements encompass huge tracts of land, including agricultural land for future development of the community subject to the approval of master plans.

According to Civil Administration data for 2000-2012, when taking population size into account, 3.5 times as many demolition orders were issued and demolitions carried out for Palestinian homes in Area C as were demolition orders issued and demolitions implemented in the case of settler homes.

In addition to the settlements sanctioned by the State of Israel and the Civil Administration, over a hundred settlement outposts were established in Area C with neither master plans nor state sanction. Nonetheless, the establishment of most of the outposts was carried out in coordination with various government and security agencies – including the Civil Administration – and with their support. The authorities turned a blind eye to the illegality of the settlement outposts, hooked them up to advanced infrastructures and, for the most part, did not take steps to demolish them.