Israel Blocking Palestinian Permits Over UN Push, IDF Officer Says

Testimony contradicts government claim to Supreme Court that professional considerations behind halt in West Bank planning.

Nir Kafri

The Palestinian bid to join international organizations is the reason for the recent halt to construction planning in Palestinian villages, said a senior Israeli army officer on Sunday, contradicting what government officials recently told the Supreme Court.

The government had said building permits in Area C, which is the part of the West Bank under direct Israeli control, are issued solely according to planning experts.

But testimony by Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the West Bank, to a Knesset committee on Sunday indicates political motivations are behind the decision to stop planning and building.

“Master construction plans for the Palestinian populations have been frozen as a response to Mahmoud Abbas overtures to the UN organizations," Mordechai said. 

Mordechai made his remakrs before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s subcommittee on Judea and Samaria headed by MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi). The committee had been discussing the relative lack of enforcement on Palestinian building violations. As in the past, Palestinian representatives were not invited to take part in the discussions. Representatives from the Regavim organization, which is funded by the Amana settlement organization and regional councils in the West Bank, were present at the meeting.

Earlier this month, in response to a petition from Rabbis for Human Rights against what they claimed was discrimination against Palestinians by the building and planning authorities, the state prosecutor said that “the village councils can formulate building plans and submit them to the authorities. These projects will be examined on the basis of professional planning considerations.”

Mordechai also stated that in five different cases, international organizations were found to be participating in illegal construction. In each case the Foreign Ministry was notified, and complaints were filed with the relevant foreign consulates. The cases included funding for playgrounds from the Italian government, renovations on a well paid for by the Swedish government, sheds built with French funding and two cases in which the United Nations provided tents for homeless individuals.

According to data compiled in 2013 presented to the committee, there were 1,646 building violations in the West Bank. 1,288 of them were found among Palestinians, of which 373 illegal structures were demolished. 358 violations were found among Jews, of which 147 illegal structures were demolished. At the same time, past experience dictates that most of the structures demolished in the settlements were not dwellings, and the Civil Administration generally refrains from demolishing structures in large, politically-connected outposts.