The Palestinian Authority said Saturday that it would issue building permits to Arabs for construction in Area C – which is supposed to be under the sole security and civilian control of Israel. PA official Majed Salah said that the PA had “prepared a plan to allow construction in all areas regardless of Israeli limitations.” The permits would be issued as needed, depending on demand and population growth, and would not be limited to areas Israel had approved for Arab construction. Salah added that the European Union had agreed to the plan and would support the permits issued.
Under the Oslo Accords, Israel is the only power authorized to issue building permits in Area C. Despite that, illegal Arab construction has been going on for years, and some groups, such as the Regavim organization, estimate that there are tens of thousands of illegal Arab structures in Area C. The organization has urged the government to take action before “the situation cannot be reversed, and the Arabs de facto take over Area C because of their population growth,” the group said.
Last week, the Security Cabinet approved a plan that would see the construction of 700 homes for Arabs in Area C. The project was approved unanimously, with the two ministers of the United Right Party, Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich, voting in favor. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet that the plan would accompany another one, that would see construction of 6,000 homes for Jews in Yehuda and Shomron.
Figures on the right criticized Peretz and Smotrich for supporting the plan, but the latter said that the plan was “the first time Israel is organizing a plan to prevent establishment of a Palestinian state.” In a social media post, he wrote that for years, Arabs have been building illegally in Yehudah and Shomron – including in Area C – and nothing has been done about it. “Anyone who travels around can see the creeping occupation of the Arabs of these areas, with almost no action by the Civil Administration, which is very attentive to even a trailer that Israelis set up. Finally we have a plan to deal with the terror that is spreading among us, and I am happy to have been among those who made this happen.”
The plan, Smotrich said, will regulate construction “and ensure that it can take place only in areas where it is legal and will not harm security or other residents. This will help halt the establishment of a de facto Arab state. Construction will take place in areas that serve the national interests of Israelis, not Arabs. For the first time Israel will actualize its sovereignty and take responsibility for the area and what happens there. Israel will for the first time establish tools to enforce the law and neutralize Arab efforts to establish a state.”