AG Urges Barak to Allow Inspectors to Prosecute Illegal Construction in West Bank

Defense minister says the broadening of Civil Administration inspectors' authorities is in progress.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to let construction inspectors operating in the West Bank to prosecute settlers who build without permits, Haaretz learned on Wednesday.

The request was made as part of the AG's appeal to bolster the Civil Administration's inspecting unit, originally submitted a few months ago as part of the battle against illegal construction in settlements and outposts, only to be resubmitted recently.

In response to the repeated request, Barak indicated to Weinstein that the issue was currently being weighed, and added that the Defense Ministry was considering to add prosecution authority to inspectors currently employed with the Civil Administration.

If approved, the new powers would allow inspectors to follow up cases with legal tools, on top of the existing administrative ones already at their disposal, such as locating violators, confiscating equipment and issuing demolition orders.

Until now, no charges were issued regarding illegal construction in the West Bank, despite the fact that tens of thousands of violations are documented in both Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements.  

While Israeli local councils, including those in the West Bank, are legally authorized to prosecute construction offenders, they are allowed to do so only within their own jurisdiction, with much of the illegal construction in the territories located outside of a council's authority.

The Civil Administration's inspectors quickly locate building violations, and issue demolition orders. The slow rate with which those demolitions take place, however, is rooted not in a lack of a legal infrastructure but as a result of political pressure.