Using European money, Palestinians have expropriated tens of thousands of acres of Israeli land in a determined plan to create “irreversible facts on the ground.”
A report released exposes the depth and breadth of the Palestinian Authority’s plan to silently seize Israeli land. The plan, whose purpose is to bring these lands under Palestinian control, is fueled by European Union (EU) funding.
The report was put out by Regavim, an Israeli NGO that deals primarily with land issues. It conducts field surveys and documents the illegality of Palestinian land-grabs. The group has petitioned the courts many times to demand that the state perform its duty and enforce the land-use laws equally to all. According to the report, Israel’s government has been lax in doing so.
Since 2009, Palestinians have been building in Area C, the area in question which under the Oslo Accords falls completely within Israeli sovereignty. Their goal was to add to Areas A and B, which they either fully or partially control. But in 2013, they switched gears, the report says, from illegal construction to grabbing agricultural land. They did so as it is a faster method to take large areas at once. The EU makes this possible by bestowing millions of euros on the Palestinian Authority in the guise of “humanitarian aid” and “farming assistance.”
Between 2013-2017 alone, the report says, over 7600 dunam (1,878 acres) of agricultural land in 250 locations in Area C have been taken by the Palestinians. They’ve set up dozens of kilometers of irrigation pipes, retaining walls, terraces, and water tanks, and dug hundreds of water cisterns and reservoirs. They have built nearly 600 kilometers of access roads to the different sites, upon which they have planted crops and trees, and even built hothouses – all on state-owned land.
The main funding for these illegal endeavors comes from many European countries as well as humanitarian aid organizations, who between 2009-2017, have given least €45,608,214 to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). This is a quasi-official Palestinian organization with clear ties to the PFLP, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, the report states.
The report notes that land theft is in direct contravention of Israeli and international law as well as the Oslo Accords, and yet the response of the Israeli authorities has been “often non-existent.” It especially castigates the Civil Administration, which is responsible for the protection of Israel’s land in Area C, saying that “for all intents and purposes [it] does not take steps to stem the tide of creeping annexation or to restore the status quo ante.”
This non-enforcement of the law has been in the news sporadically over recent years, especially when demolition orders were given but not enforced.
Two years ago, Regavim petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the construction of an illegal 20-kilometer road connecting an Arab village southeast of Bethlehem to the Dead Sea. MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home Party warned then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of the symbolic and practical meaning of the road’s construction.
A spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) at the time said that the demolition order “will be implemented in accordance with determined priorities.”
Over two and a half years later, the road still stands.
Regavim’s report makes a series of recommendations, including using existing rules to “halt the spread of the land-seizure projects,” applying political pressure on European funders to cease their activity, and forming a special unit to protect open areas in Judea and Samaria.