Regavim: Arabs Used Holiday Break for Illegal Construction

YERUSHALAYIM -
Tekoa, in the Gush Etzion Council. (Avi Deror)
Eastern Gush Etzion. (Avi Deror)

In Yehudah and Shomron, “facts on the ground” constitute de-facto possession of territory, and over the recent Yamim Tovim, Arabs were able to significantly increase their “facts” as Israeli supervision of the region was slight to nonexistent. According to the Regavim organization, Arabs took advantage of the holiday break to significantly advance numerous illegal projects in the region.

Preparing for this possibility – based on experience in the past – the South Chevron Hills regional council hired a non-Jewish camera crew to record the activities of Palestinians who have been working on what appears to be a school near the Israeli town of Susiya. A great deal of progress was made on construction over the past month, and a local contractor has begun paving a road near the site, as well as another one near Nachal Arugot in east Gush Etzion.

“Enforcement of building rules on Palestinian projects during the year is lax as it is, but over the holidays they have learned that they can do whatever they want without consequence,” said Oved Arad, head of field operations for Regavim, an organization dedicated to keeping track of illegal Palestinian building. “They know they can use the time to advance their projects because the Jewish supervisors are all on vacation. The system is very problematic and reflects the lack of enforcement in general.”

“The levels of illegal Palestinian building in this region are approaching a tipping point where we will lose control of our hold on many state land parcels, where the illegal construction is going on,” said Yochai Damri, head of the Chevron Hills Regional Council. “This illegal building is part of the Palestinian strategy of developing a solid population belt from Gaza in the south to Shomron in the north, thus choking the growth of Israel. We anticipate increased activity by the responsible parties in the coming days to halt these efforts.”