Ostensibly, demolition of houses in Area C is a purely administrative procedure based solely on planning considerations. However, examination of the location and timing of demolitions and comparing them with the planning policy in the settlements indicate that the mass demolition policy serves objectives totally unrelated to planning.
Demolition of houses as a political act
Palestinian homes are demolished in the context of a declared policy of strengthening and expanding Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and of creating permanent facts affecting negotiations over the final-status arrangements. Consequently, Palestinian houses are demolished to meet the following needs:
- Construction of bypass roads: Bypass roads are intended to enable movement of settlers and of military forces protecting the settlements. Houses lying alongside an existing or planned bypass road are designated to be demolished.
- Removal of Palestinians from areas adjacent to Israeli settlements: The Israeli authorities consistently demolish Palestinian structures that are perceived as hindrances to the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlement. The proximity of the houses to the settlements obviously is not raised as an official reason for the demolition in these cases.
- Prevent transfer of land to Palestinians: Israel demolishes houses in areas located on land that it wants to keep for itself in the final-status agreement. By pursuing this policy, Israel is preventing the Palestinian Authority from demanding the land on the grounds that Palestinians live there. Demolition of houses is a convenient way to expel residents from the area.
Demolition of houses as an act of reprisal
Following the bomb attack in the Mahane Yehuda market, in Jerusalem, on 30 July 1997, the government's Political-Security Cabinet decided to implement several measures in reprisal, among them demolition of houses in the West Bank in general, and in East Jerusalem in particular. As a result, during the following month, Israel demolished twenty-nine houses, compared to seven houses that were demolished in the month prior to the attack. In no case did the authorities claim that the home owners had any connection to the bombings. All cases were justified on administrative grounds.
According to Israel, demolition of houses for "administrative" reasons, i.e., for building without a permit, is not a security measure, but the end of an administrative process. The decision of the Political-Security Cabinet and its implementation indicate that the planning considerations that were the basis for the large number of demolitions of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories were of secondary importance to considerations totally unrelated to building supervision and control.
Demolition of houses as a policy of discrimination
Broad-scale building without permits occurs in Palestinian villages and in Israeli settlements. In the Palestinian villages, the building is conducted by private individuals who are desperate because of the absence of planning schemes to meet their needs, the lack of permits to build on their land, or the refusal of the authorities to grant them building permits. When they have built, the authorities have responded aggressively, demolishing thousands of houses over the years of occupation without offering a meaningful solution to the housing shortage.
Israeli settlers built thousands of housing units, public facilities, and industrial structures without permits. Government ministries, primarily the Ministry of Housing, erected a high percentage of these structures. Private construction companies and individual settlers also built without permits in most of the settlements. The authorities take a forgiving attitude toward building without a permit in the settlements, and have refrained - except for one case, as far as we know - from demolishing houses built without a permit. Instead, the authorities retroactively approve plans validating such construction.