Last month I started my new role as the international director for Regavim, an Israeli legal watchdog dedicated to safeguarding Israel’s national lands. The organization is active in calling on the appropriate authorities and elected government officials to enforce the rule of law pertaining to all land ownership issues on Israeli state lands.
Unfortunately after putting hundreds of kilometers on my car traveling both the length and breadth of our Jewish homeland to learn about the land realities, I have come to discover a complete disregard for the rule of law amongst segments of various minorities when it comes to building and land preservation.
Standing at the top of a strategic lookout point in the northern Negev one can see how the various tribes and clans have dotted the horizon with illegal dwellings, to a point where it nearly looks like one contiguous shantytown. While the government has legalized 17 Bedouin communities, providing the people with free land to build homes and tend to their flocks — something that no other population in Israel is entitled to, many choose to remain off the grid in order to avoid paying taxes and utilities.
In other cases tribal warfare is rampant, thus the ‘strong’ refuse to allow other clans access to live and raise their families in the same village. These legal communities are lined with beautiful homes and mansions, but remain only half-full as outsiders are denied entry understanding that their lives would be in danger should they try to access areas controlled by their rivals.
Various government plans, most recently the “Begin-Prawer Plan” have been proposed in order to provide an overall solution for the Bedouin, but both the political right and the left have viewed those plans as being flawed. In the interim Regavim’s main grievance is the fact that the government is not acting as a sovereign power enforcing the laws.
In the north of the country where 30,000 illegal buildings stand, the police fail to enforce court orders to destroy these structures and uphold the law, often out of fear. As a result of violent riots in 2012, in the Galilee village of Bir al-Maksur when police arrived to destroy just one illegal structure, not a single illegal building has been taken down in the area since.
But perhaps the most disturbing development I’ve learned about over the past month is the situation just minutes East of Jerusalem in and around the area known as ‘E1.’
Since 1992 each Israeli government starting with the Rabin Government has promised but refrained from building in this area of state land, thus failing to create a strategic connection between the capital and Ma’ale Adumim.
Instead Arabs funded by the European Union to the tune of hundreds of millions of Euro in coordination with the Palestinian Authority are conducting a full-fledged land grab in order to create a De facto Palestinian State in area ‘C’ of Judea/Samaria.
With over 1,000 illegal EU structures already on the ground, equipped with solar-paneled electricity, bathrooms with internal plumbing, and freshwater tanks, the EU is violating International Law, by establishing these facts on the ground illegally on Israel land.
The EU goal is to create a contiguous Arab presence from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea in lieu of peace talks in order to eventually claim those areas as part of the PA with an ever increasing population and structural reality. Some of these rapidly growing illegal EU encampments already resemble small villages, where the PA even buses in children from areas ‘A’ and ‘B’ to attend school.
The illegal building isn’t limited to the Ma’ale Adumim corridor and is beginning to run rampant in other areas of Judea and Samaria. Most recently the EU has expanded this activity to the Southern Hebron Hills, trying to create illegal communities in that area as well.
Regavim strongly believes that the government must flex its muscle against the EU for violating Israeli sovereignty. Especially since the EU is carrying out this mission proudly, while sticking a thumb in the eye of Israel by prominently displaying an EU flag on the front of each and every illegal building they erect. It is for this reason and others that Regavim recently led a successful international campaign in support of the UK’s ‘Brexit’ from the EU, due to their malicious conduct against the State of Israel and its interests.
So while I’ve only been at it a month, it is obvious that my plate is full. I’ve learned over this short period that Regavim doesn’t stand and watch gleefully when illegal buildings are in fact destroyed. That’s not the goal. It’s really about the government proposing and implanting practical solutions which uphold the laws of our democracy and safeguard Israel’s lands for generations to come. We still have a long way to go.