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Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


Settlements, Palestinian Style

By: Amihai Attali posted on Thursday, May 10, 2012

A general view shows the neighborhood of Ulpana, on the edge of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah, where five apartment buildings were meant to be demolished by May 1. (photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias)

In recent months, the outposts built by Judea and Samaria settlers have made headlines after the High Court of Justice instructed the state to evacuate the Migron outpost and five structures in the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El. But it turns out that in recent years, the Palestinians have adopted the outpost technique themselves. They have established facts on the ground, using the old Jewish "Tower and Stockade" technique [used by Jews in the pre-State Mandate period when they constructed settlements by taking advantage of a law stating that an illegal building may not be demolished if the roof has been completed]. According to sources in the field, the Palestinian outposts occupy thousands of dunams [decares].

In 2009, after protracted political stagnation, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad conceived a plan in preparation of the declaration of a Palestinian state. Among the various articles of the project that earned the name "the Fayyad plan," the Palestinian Authority's prime minister declared his intention to seize as much land as possible in Area C [under total Israeli military and civil control]. Thus scores of Palestinian "outposts" have been constructed throughout Judea and Samaria: in the Hebron Hills, along the Jerusalem-Dead Sea road, adjacent to the Begin Road in Jerusalem (the section connecting to Route 443), and various sites in Samaria. In every one of the outposts, prefab structures were erected — ranging from three to dozens of structures per outpost. Next to each structure is a yellow water facility and generator, all of which bear the emblem of the Palestinian Authority.

The largest operations took place when the civil administration inspectors were on vacation. The method that was so successful in Keidar was subsequently replicated in scores of additional locations throughout Judea and Samaria. Tens of Palestinians would stream to various locations and quickly set up the prefab buildings during nighttime hours, holidays, vacations and Saturdays.

The law only allows civil administration inspectors to confiscate buildings that are in the process of being built. Once construction has been completed, demolition warrants must be issued. Thus, the civil administration duly issues demolition warrants [for the illegal Palestinian structures], and the Palestinians respond by petitioning the High Court of Justice. Then, justices of the High Court demand that the state prosecutors provide arguments for demolishing the buildings, and until these arguments are supplied — the outposts proliferate quickly, at an almost daily rate.

"Daylight Robbery"

These Palestinian outposts may have extraordinary political importance for Israel. During political negotiations, the state is likely to find itself at a great disadvantage when the Palestinians are already controlling thousands of dunams, a large part of which are situated in what is called "[Jewish] settlement blocs."

The Regavim NGO Association that documents and tracks illegal construction in the Green Line and the territories, submitted a huge petition to the High Court of Justice with the request to order the demolition of scores of structures out of the hundreds that were erected in the Palestinian outposts. The petition was accompanied by proof of state ownership of the land and aerial photos documenting the rapid proliferation of the structures. "The Palestinians are conducting daylight robbery of state lands [under our noses] with the clear political objective of the Palestinian Authority to take control of as much state land as possible," says Oved Arad, Regavim's Judea and Samaria Director

A source in the defense system commented, "there is no doubt that the Palestinians have learned to manipulate the Israeli system. They replicate the Tower and Stockade system, then know how to obtain protection from the courts. This massive takeover of lands should worry us a great deal, and the judicial system should address the phenomenon with great seriousness."