'Netanyahu's Policy': Israeli Arabs Fear More House Demolitions

After Bedouin village taken town, Israeli Arab community heads say dozens of demolition orders throughout country still await implementation.

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Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the Negev desert city of Beersheba.
Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near Beersheba. Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP
Almog Ben Zikri
Jack Khoury

Sources in the Israeli Arab community say they are expecting a wave of house demolitions following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements regarding enforcement of building laws in light of the crisis over evacuating the illegal outpost of Amona.

The demolition of 11 houses last week in Kalansua and the 15 dwellings demolished Wednesday in Umm al-Hiran, along with ongoing demolitions in unrecognized villages in the Negev, have raised concerns over possible additional such action in central and northern Israel.

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Violent clashes between police forces and residents in Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017Credit: N/A

According to Public Security Ministry figures, 1,136 illegal structures were demolished in 2016 in the south, in 60 out of 75 demolition operations carried out as planned. The 15 that were not carried out were cancelled due to weather conditions, the demolition of the dwelling by the inhabitants or insufficient police manpower.

Over the past two weeks, according to the ministry figures, 83 structures were demolished in the Negev and residents of Bedouin communities in the south say they fear this trend will continue in the near future.

The demolition operation in Kalansua was the most extensive for many years, and Arab local authorities voiced concerns that more are on the way for the north and center.

The chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, Mohammad Barakeh, said after the demolition of the houses in Kalansua that this was “application of Benjamin Netanyahu’s instructions.” According to Barakeh, these steps “require Arab society to realize the dangers it faces from this government.”

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Thousands protest in Kalansua against house demolitions, January 13, 2016.Credit: Courtesy

According to people involved in the details, a demolition operation is expected in the Dahamash neighborhood of the central Israeli city of Lod. This neighborhood contains dozens of homes that are defined as illegal; final demolition orders have been issued for 13 of them. Dahamash’s residents have been fighting for many years to no avail to have the houses recognized as legal.

Another area that could become a focus for house demolitions is Wadi Ara in central Israel. A group of local activists said that demolition orders have been issued for seven houses in communities in that area. A number of meetings have been held in Wadi Ara over the past few weeks to try to prepare for a wave of demolitions.

Druze towns in the Galilee and on Mount Carmel are also seeing their share of demolition orders. The mayors of the Druze towns are to hold an emergency meeting in the town of Maghar in the Lower Galilee after four demolition orders were issued for structures there in the past few days. Demolition orders have also been issued for structures in the towns of Yarka, Isfiya and Daliat al-Carmel.

The director of the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, Dr. Hana Sweid, told Haaretz that instead of the state expediting house demolitions and increasing tensions and lack of faith, it should be seeking creative alternative solutions that take into consideration the characteristics and needs of the communities in question.

Among these, according to ACAP, is a proposal that has been before the government for more than a year to freeze all demolition orders and allocate resources toward planning and changing the status of the illegal structures, and at the same time the local authorities would pledge that no new structures would go up without a permit.

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