The Civil Administration issued 797 demolition orders last year for Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank’s Area C, marking a five-year record, a freedom of information request filed by rights group Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights revealed.
Human rights groups attribute the rise in demolition orders to a growing political pressure to increase enforcement on Palestinian construction in the West Bank.
According to the data, between 2016 and 2020, Palestinians submitted 2,550 requests for construction permits, but only 24 of them were granted – a mere 0.9 percent. From 2019-2020 the rate of approved requests was even lower, at 0.65 percent.
At the same time, between 2016 and 2020, construction permits were issued for 8,356 settlement housing units in the West Bank – 384 times the number of permits given to Palestinians in Area C, the portion of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
Last month the Civil Administration approved measures to advance the construction of 1,303 homes in Palestinian villages in Area C.
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Only one plan, for 170 houses in Barta’a, was given final approval, whereas the rest are likely to take years before being granted it.
Architect Alon Cohen-Lifshitz of Bimkom told Haaretz that some of the plans currently being advanced are either outdated or don’t fit the current needs of the Palestinian residents, because they were first submitted with the Civil Administration nearly a decade ago. “The information paints a grim picture of severe discrimination,” he said.
The data also shows that in 2018-2020 there has been a constant rise in the number of permits Palestinians request before construction. Whereas the vast majority of requests are submitted by Palestinians only after construction, the Civil Administration’s figures point to a clear trend of rise in requests submitted ahead of it.
In 2018 – the first year the Civil Administration provided this type of data for – only 57 requests were submitted by Palestinians before construction began. In 2020 this figure was doubled, with 104 requests.
Last October, the Settlement Affairs Ministry transferred 20 million shekels to 14 settlement authorities in order to buy drones and staff patrolmen to help councils monitor Palestinian illegal construction.
The various authorities received up to 4 million dollars, and issued tenders. The patrolmen will not have the authority to enforce anything, which falls under the purview of the Civil Administration, but the logic behind them is that they will help locate the illegal construction and hand over enforcement duties.
In addition, during 2020, the Civil Administration launched a hotline for settlers to report illegal construction in Area C. Over the years, several organizations and Knesset members, including Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich, have been advancing a campaign called "the struggle for Area C," which seeks to tackle Palestinian construction there. The Knesset discussed such matters, and the several steps listed above were implemented to increase enforcement.