Opinion

Israel's New Tool for Dispossessing Palestinians

Military order 1797 is one more item in Israel's ‘toolbox’ to stop all Palestinian construction in the lion’s share of the West Bank

Israeli soldiers and border police stand guard as Israeli hydraulic shovels demolish a Palestinian building north of the West Bank city of Hebron in the so-called "Area C" on February 14, 2018.
HAZEM BADER/AFP

This week, a new military order is supposed to take effect that will make giant strides toward the vision of emptying Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank, of Palestinians.

In one stroke, the order effectively repeals Jordanian planning and construction law, which has hitherto been valid throughout the West Bank because it is occupied territory. The order also increases the power of Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank to demolish Palestinian buildings, cancels the right to a hearing and an appeal, and removes the court, with its power to intervene, from the arena.

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Order 1797, which deals with demolishing new construction, allows a Civil Administration inspector to issue demolition orders against any building that hasn’t yet been completed, any building that was completed less than six months earlier or any building that has been inhabited for less than 30 days. It authorizes the inspector to carry out the demolition within four days, unless either the builder can produce a construction permit, or the building is located within a detailed “planning program” or territory expropriated for military use.

Those three exceptions are decisive proof that even though the settler media has expressed concern about this order, the Palestinians are its principal target, for all the old, well-known reasons. First, the chances of a Palestinian in Area C getting a building permit are negligible. Second, the Civil Administration deliberately refrains from preparing or approving suitable master plans for the Palestinians, while a plethora of such plans already exists, and is constantly expanding, for Jewish settlers. And finally, only settlements are built on territory expropriated for military use.

But it’s not just these exceptions which prove who the target audience for the new order is. This order, in violation of international law, negates the existing planning and building system in the West Bank and abolishes the right to appeal against planned demolitions or obtain a permit retroactively.

Some of the Civil Administration’s building inspectors are settlers. But even those who aren’t settlers have been raised on the philosophy of Jewish supremacy and its implementation on the ground – first through stealing Palestinian lands (public and private) and awarding them to the occupying population, and later through years of blatant, offensive discrimination in planning, construction and development.

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Because of this discrimination, 300,000 Palestinians in Area C – territory which Israel controls administratively as well as militarily – are forced to live in miserably crowded conditions. They must add a room or a bathroom without a building permit and create agricultural roads without permits. Lacking any possibility of building, many young people are forced to leave.

The Civil Administration is aided by a battery of external inspectors who enjoy warm relationships with the authorities. These inspectors, who are highly motivated and have plenty of money, spy on Palestinian goings-on.

The list is headed by the Regavim organization, but it also includes settlement security officers; various pressure groups within the settlements; and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s subcommittee on settlement affairs, which is chaired by MK Moti Yogev of the Habayit Hayehudi party, the one who wants to send a D9 bulldozer against the Supreme Court. All of these people and organizations, who are pressing for the annexation of Area C (as a first step), can be trusted to ensure that the spirit of discrimination and of forcing Palestinians off their lands will continue to determine how this order is implemented.

The order was signed by the head of the army’s Central Command, Nadav Padan, on April 17, just a month after he took over the job. But clearly, military jurists had prepared the text before then.

As the military commander, Padan is ostensibly the sovereign power. But in reality, Regavim and Habayit Hayehudi stand over him. The current order is one more item in the ”toolbox,” as the Civil Administration and Yogev’s subcommittee term the orders and subterfuges they use to stop all Palestinian construction in the lion’s share of the West Bank.

The common denominator of all the tools in this toolbox is removing the courts from the picture. How beautiful our world will be without the courts, which (still) serve as a tiny obstacle to implementing the transfer policy. Now we’ll be able to speed up the policy and radicalize it further, with nothing standing in the way.